In that time Emmerich has had his ups and downs (mostly downs) turning out 2012, 10,000BC, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW and GODZILLA. In WHITE HOUSE DOWN he’s made his best film since THE PATRIOT, but that’s not to say it’s a good film. WHITE HOUSE DOWN is a ridiculous film.
Channing Tatum stars as John Cale, a veteran who served three tours in Afghanistan. Now working security detail for the United States Speaker of the House – Speaker Raphelson (Richard Jenkins) – Cale aspires to graduate to the Secret Service. Not only is he ambitious, but he is angling to impress his daughter Emily (Joey King) who, at best, has a strained relationship with her father. Emily is a political junkie and knows her White House history. She jumps at the chance to accompany her father to his interview at the White House followed by a tour of the building – and here begins the action.
Tatum is a rising star and this summer blockbuster seems to only cement his place among Hollywood elite. (The film shows tremendous restraint by not allowing Tatum to ever take off his shirt.) But Tatum has perfected the cool guy formula and this charming guy is the perfect hero to single-handedly save the country.
During a White House tour with his daughter, things spin out of control in WHITE HOUSE DOWN when the Capitol building is bombed and the White House is seized by a terrorist group. Within minutes the terrorists take down the entire White House security, take control of all weapons stored in our nations executive mansion, and take full control of our government’s command center. The ease in which this task is completed is enough to make anyone scratch their head. But don’t stop to think during this movie. It doesn’t make sense. Just keep moving.
For instance, if you are familiar with Washington, D.C., you might wonder why a Blackhawk helicopter headed for the White House would go from the Potomac River, over to Chinatown, and back to I Street to get to its destination. Or why the federal government would allow citizens to freely wander around DC while it is under attack. Don’t worry about it.
In the midst of chaos, Cale is separated from his daughter and finds himself doing the job he interviewed for earlier the same day – protecting the idealist, Lincoln-worshiping President, James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Emily is taken hostage along with a cast of unfortunate White House visitors, including cabinet members, a television talking head, tourists, and humorous White House tour guide Donnie (Nicolas Wright). The misfit band of terrorists – led by a government traitor – each have their own motive: money, power, revenge, hate (nothing new here).
The cast is loaded with familiar names in the form of Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins and James Woods. It’s obvious that many of these actors are underachieving here, particularly Woods. Jamie Foxx appears most comfortable as the peace-loving President turned ass-kicking hero.
WHITE HOUSE DOWN seems to be paying homage to older action movies in the vein of Schwarzeneggar and Stallone films. Emmerich spared no explosions, punches, or heavy machinery. There is even a car chase on the White House lawn! But there is also a fair share of crowd-pleasing slapstick humor and goofy one-liners (maybe a little too much as the film runs almost 2 hours and 20 minutes).