Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Rolland Emmerich has always been the man behind some of the summer’s biggest and most violent blockbusters. From aliens blowing up world landmarks, Mel Gibson massacring the British and the foaming at the mouth wrath of mother nature, Emmerich has a knack for getting butts in theater seats. He’s now set his sights on destroying and killing every little thing he can get his hands on inside the confines of the President’s home in “White House Down”.
Like any decent action flick, we need the customary character introductions before all hell breaks loose. That’s where we meet President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx), who idolizes Abraham Lincoln and is hoping to ink one of the biggest Middle East peace deals. Heading up security and Presidential details is Martin Walker (James Woods), who is reaching retirement and seems less than happy with President Sawyer’s foreign policy. We then meet the character that all the women in the audience were gleefully looking forward to, D.C. police officer John Cale (Channing Tatum). He’s a former soldier who’s still trying to put his life together after his divorce. He’s keeping himself busy as security for the speaker of the house, Eli Ralphelson (Richard Jenkins), but this has put a strain on the relationship with his daughter, Emily (Joey King).
But today he’s got a surprise for his daughter, a pass to tour the White House. Which is very low on a lot of preteen girl’s lists, but Emily’s freakish love of politics makes this surprise seem like an early Christmas gift. Before that though, he has an interview for the Presidential secret service. That’s where the audience watches him get turned down and told “You’re just not secret service material”. Of course everyone knows we’re about to spend the next testosterone fueled hour and a half watching John prove his interviewer wrong. The beginning of the movie really dragged its feet trying to establish every single secondary and background character. Trust me, there are way too many to mention in this review. The secondary characters that get the least amount of screen time are actually the most pleasant and fun to watch. Though she’s the most prominent, as secret service agent Carol Finnerty, Maggie Gyllenhaal just kind of occupies the space she’s given. Luckily though, things pick up when a bomb detonates at the Capitol building. As smoke and flames pour out of the Capitol’s dome, a group of paramilitary mercenaries, led by Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke), take over the White House. They systematically go through every room in the place and kill every form of security with deadly precision.
Action movies like this rest on a very thin line. They can be incredibly silly and boring for the audience or they can be a highly entertaining movie that evokes plenty of emotion. Not necessarily tears, but rounds of laughter, applause and cheers. Since it takes place at the White House, there are plenty of light hearted jabs at politicians and pundits. The politics remain right in the middle so that both the red and blue moviegoers can get some laughs in. As an American, it’s more engrossing to watch a movie like this because we’re watching 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue turn from a beacon of national pride to an arcade style shoot em’ up. One of the best action sequences in the film includes the front lawn of the White House becoming host to a death race. The script, by James Vanderbilt, surprisingly keeps the action from being eye rollingly dull and predictable. But he also manages to keep it ridiculous enough to put a smile on theater goers faces, mine being one of them.
I have to admit, Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum may be one of the more interesting duos to hit the screens in a while. I wouldn’t have suspected it, but the chemistry between the two melds well.. Especially when Jamie Foxx realizes the peaceful commander-in-chief schtick isn’t gonna work and needs to operate a rocket launcher. If you’ve exhausted your other summer movie choices and are looking for a fun, cheesy movie, this is a good filler.