White House Down
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Written by James Vanderbilt
Starring Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum
Release date 13 September 2013
Right wing thugs take over the White House. No change there then. Robert Pegg went to see White House Down for Louder Than War.
White House Down stars Channing Tatum as a Capitol policeman trying to impress his nerdy but cute 11 year old estranged daughter by taking her not just to his job interview for a position as a Secret Service Agent but on a tour of the White House itself. When it comes under attack, he leaps into action to save his child and protect the President from a heavily armed group of paramilitary invaders engaged in a right wing coup d’etat. Well, I suppose it beats taking her to the zoo.
The film opens with the President (Jamie Foxx) giving a speech announcing the withdrawal of all troops from the Middle East and asking everyone to just try and be a bit nicer to each other. It’s the kind of speech an America President would give if Richard Curtis wrote it for him.
Roland Emmerich has form for blowing up the White House which only makes what comes next all the more predictable. In White House Down he doesn’t just blow it up, he sets fire to it, shoots it, kicks it, punches it, shouts at it and tries to throw people through its walls. Yeah, we get the symbolism, Roland. The President himself can be a decent enough man but his office and the institution is in danger of being destroyed if we don’t watch out, yeah?
White House Down isn’t so much a film in its own right but rather a straight rip off of other films. Here’s a bit from Con Air, now there’s a scene just like The Rock and here we go with Die Hard. But where those films had snappy scripts and the camp charisma of villains like John Malkovich, Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons or the sheer presence of Ed Harris, White House Down is all cartoon henchmen and no real bad guy you can get to grips with.
In its attempt to forcibly kick its naive and oxymoronic liberal message down your throat the film takes the safe option by telling you that America, and therefore democracy itself, is mostly under threat by a handful of country boy, home grown psychotic rednecks that don’t even scare an 11 year old girl but have access to some super-advanced multi million dollar weaponry. Oh, really? What it is in fact telling the audience is that yes, we can all live in peace but an awful lot of people need to die before we do, and preferably die on live TV. If it wasn’t so dumb it would be slightly offensive. It certainly insults your intelligence on any number of levels.
Having said all that, it is undoubtedly an accomplished, generic action movie, it just lacks any kind of originality. There is nothing here you haven’t seen before and it falls down because there is no chemistry at all between Foxx and Tatum, largely because both of them take themselves, their characters and the film far too seriously. The one liners and comic moments that usually lift this kind of high end action thriller above the routine are simply not there and when it does try to be funny it fails dismally.
James Woods plays the kind of character he can play in his sleep, which I think he did, and the only people on screen that come out with any credit is the underused Richard Jenkins, doing the best he can with some cringeworthy lines, and Joey King as Tatum’s daughter Emily Cale.
White House Down is Die Hard with all the humour, heart and soul ripped out of it and replaced with an awkward, pseudo-liberal political agenda. And where’s the fun in that?
All words by Robert Pegg. This is Robert’s first post for Louder Than War.