2 ½ stars
If you’re thinking that you’ve seen this movie once already this year you’d be forgiven. Roland Emmerich’s White House Down bears a premise that is a carbon copy of Olympus Has Fallen, a film released earlier this year. However, director Emmerich along with stars Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum, offer up a far more thoroughly entertaining film than Olympus – even if it is a bit long in the tooth by the time the end credits roll.
White House Down is about U.S. Capitol Police officer John Cale (Tatum) who, after bombing out on an interview for a position with Secret Service, decides to hang around the White House and take his daughter on the tour. Big mistake. Not long after, the White House comes under attack by heavily armed spoilers. Cale is separated from his daughter before the attack, and thus must go find her. President Sawyer (Foxx) is also MIA, so Cale takes it upon himself to find him too. From there, the two main missions of the film are set up alongside actually figuring out who is behind the attack, what the endgame is and the reasoning behind it – but all of that is nowhere near as fun as watching Tatum and Foxx navigate through an under siege White House and defend themselves when need be.
The chemistry between the leads is what keeps this film from falling apart, and also what elevates it above the abhorrently bland Olympus Has Fallen. Tatum and Foxx make their characters likeable and relatable – which is a big green tick for the film. While the script is sub-par, and has an almost grating infatuation with cheesy one-liners, Tatum and Foxx make it work with their delivery. Olympus Has Fallen was a film that took itself far too seriously; White House Down has a strong sense of identity and embraces all of the camp value that comes with it. At times it even felt like a rollicking fun homage to the 80s action era.
White House Down does suffer under the weight of its own bravado by simply doing a little too much. Some of action sequences run slightly too long and end up becoming chaotic and abrasive, but for the few that don’t they balance great stylish action.
At 137 minutes, the film also runs far too long, spending unnecessarily extended amounts of time on first act exposition scenes and later sequences while the White House is under siege. At about 20 minutes to half an hour shorter, White House Down would’ve been a far more punchier and accessible film.
The drawn out duration does nothing to heighten the film’s levels of tension, which remain frustratingly low despite what is taking place on screen. Any plot twist can be spotted a mile off, and any apparent high stakes moment is thwarted by the fact that there’s just no way that the filmmakers will go there.
White House Down is an average action-thriller, but 2013 has been an average year for the genre so it’ll hold up well by the end of the year. Plus, it makes Olympus Has Fallen look even more inferior than it did before. See White House Down for its one sole merit – it’s a lot of fun.
Reviewer: David Thomas Williams