Home Year 2013 White House Down (2013)

White House Down (2013)

Assume the John McClane pose... check. Find gun... next on the agenda.
Assume the John McClane pose… check. Find gun… next on the agenda.

Twitter Plot Summary: John Cale goes for a job interview at the White House, on the same day that terrorists attack it. He goes John McClane, white vest and all.

Genre: Action/Drama/Thriller

Director: Roland Emmerich

Key Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, Joey King, Nicolas Wright, Michael Murphy, Lance Reddick, Jake Weber, Peter Jacobson, Rachelle Lefevre, Jimmi Simpson,

Five Point Summary:

1. That is one fine haircut, Mr Woods.
2. Oh look, an Independence Day reference. Hah. Hah. Hah.
3. And look! It’s Taub from House!
4. And look some more! It’s one of the white supremacists from Breaking Bad!
5. Well, that was a very silly film wasn’t it? I rather enjoyed it.

The movie industry has a rather unfortunate pastime of repeating itself. I’ve said it before (see my review of Super), and I’ll be saying it over and over again until people get sick of reading my posts. The fact of the matter is that we often have two similar films or ideas released around the same time. This year we’ve already had Olympus Has Fallen, where Gerard Butler was the fly in the ointment preventing the terrorists from controlling the United States’ nuclear arsenal. White House Down’s threat is an altogether more realistic prospect, coming from within the United States at a time when the President is attempting to broker peace in the Middle East. The pen is mightier than the sword and all that jazz. There is resistance from within the government and you know all is not well when James Woods, head of the President’s security detail and a few days away from retirement, decides to remove his Stars and Stripes pin badge.

Elsewhere, we’re again met by the old stalwart of the Absent Father Syndrome. Cale (Tatum) has moved from job to job, completed a few tours of service in Afghanistan, and is now working private security for the Speaker of the House. He wants to become a member of the secret service yet his past is holding him back. He has an 11 year old daughter who is obsessed with politics and he is able to call in enough favours to get her a pass to join a White House tour with an excitable guide played by Nicolas Wright. Then the terrorists begin their assault, in quite a low-key and dare I say it, realistic manner, and things start blowing up and Cale has to protect the President as well as try and rescue his daughter who is being held hostage. There’s an obvious commentary on US foreign policy here, but any subtlety regarding that potentially thorny issue is thrown out the window almost as soon as things start getting silly. Probably for the best.

Watching James Woods get undressed made them both very uncomfortable.
Watching James Woods get undressed made them both very uncomfortable.

Cale has a past with Special Agent Finnerty (Gyllenhaal), but this isn’t explored as much as it possibly should or could have been. Gyllenhaal is reduced to being a glorified secretary by supporting Cale over the telephone. If you were expecting any strong female characters (a long shot, I admit) then you’ll be very disappointed. There’s also the plot involving the expert hacker that literally goes nowhere. He hacks in, he shows us what he can do with a wireless camera, some explosives and some computer code he’s apparently written, but then that’s about it. Chief goon Stenz gets much more to do whilst getting angry about Cale killing his team. They also, perhaps wisely, don’t go into too much depth with Cale’s relationship with his ex-wife, that would definitely be treading on Die Hard’s toes and there are already too many comparisons between the two as it is.

I hate to have to constantly refer back to Olympus Has Fallen, but unfortunately the links are inevitable. Suffice to say, Jamie Foxx’s President Sawyer is much more hands on compared to Aaron Eckhart’s “damsel in distress” president in Olympus. It’s got more of that Die Hard 3 vibe in that for most of the film it’s Foxx and Tatum working together. Some of the CGI is glaringly obvious whilst other parts kind of work in that typical Roland Emmerich way. Comparisons are inevitable to his other films, but for once he keeps it relatively sane and doesn’t do what I expected him to do in his follow-up to 2012, and that is for him to destroy the universe, Emmerich style. Maybe for the next film perhaps?

Cale is down with the wisecracks on occasion, but it’s comparatively light on jokes and whimsy. Okay yes, some of the set pieces are stupid and every now and again we do get treated to a sprinkling of humour, but it has less fun with the premise than Olympus did. I think that’s half the problem too – having such similarly plotted movies means you will inevitably draw comparisons between them. Put it this way – both films can exist side by side, and both have their good and bad points. It’s down to you the viewer to decide if you have any preference over one or the other, but if you weren’t keen on Olympus Has Fallen then there’s little point in seeing White House Down. If however you actually want a film to wear its Die Hard inspiration on its sleeve, then watch White House Down just because Tatum runs around in a white vest (steady, ladies). John McClane would be proud.

Favourite scene: Driving around on the White House lawn in a bullet proof car.



“No, I don’t want cake! I’m diabetic!”

Silly Moment:  Driving around on the White House lawn in a bullet proof car.

Score: 3/5


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