Let’s get the most obvious thing out right away. This film cannot be reviewed without mentioning “Olympus Has Fallen,” which also had a story where the White House gets taken over by terrorists. I will come out right now and say that “Olympus Has Fallen” is the better movie, it balances having fun and being entertaining while still being somewhat believable. That being said, “White House Down” isn’t bad.
The film follows a low- ranking security agent named Cale, played by Channing Tatum, who is trying to get into the Secret Service to protect the President. The president in the film, James Sawyer, played by Jamie Foxx, is trying to get legislation passed through that could bring peace to the Middle East.
In a series of coincidences, Cale ends up making a visit to the White House, bringing his young daughter, who doesn’t see eye to eye with him. During their time at the mansion, terrorists launch an all out assault on the White House while the president is there.
During the attack, Cale and his daughter get separated and he ends up running into the President, who has lost his other Secret Service agents. The film is then about Cale and President Sawyer having to fight back against the terrorists who have taken over the White House.
“White House Down” has a premise that should be taken seriously. However, Director Roland Emmerich didn’t get the memo. The story is taken to such an unbelievable degree in being over-the-top that it is very difficult to get immersed into the actual plot. Fortunately, the story isn’t the real selling point.
What manages to save this picture from being a total train wreck is the performances by Tatum and Foxx and the entertaining action.
Both bring a lot of charisma to the screen and they have a lot of chemistry between each other. Despite not having the strongest dialogue written for them, their ability to bring likability to these characters helps to make the protagonists easy to root for. Also backing up the film in the acting area is Jason Clarke who plays one of the villains. Clarke brings this anger to his performance that works for the character he plays.
If there’s something that Emmerich can do well, it’s action, and he delivers on it. The hand-to-hand choreography is well done so that when ever a fight scene comes on, the film gets really exciting.
The special effects were used effectively for the most part, too. There were a few times when it looked like the movie was just showing off the effects, for example, a scene showing helicopters flying through the city of Washington D.C. However, when used well, it really works. The biggest example of this is the car chase on the front lawn of the White House, despite being ridiculous, it’s so exciting that it becomes a lot of fun.
Enjoyable characters and cool action moments aside, this flick still has enough flaws that stack fairly high. As said before, the story is really unbelievable and to make matters worse, there are some lame subplots and weak foreshadowing. One of those subplots include the character Cale and his daughter being at odds, to the point that the daughter calls Cale by his first name instead of just saying dad. Sorry, that’s just too cliche for me. There is a twist at the end, too, that just felt unnecessary.
Not all the acting is great either. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Richard Jenkins, who usually are fine, are just average here. Making matters worse, there are some actors who over do their performances to the extreme. In particular, a tour guide character played by Nicolas Wright and an evil computer wiz performed by Jimmi Simpson.
Overall, “White House Down” is average. It’s not as good as its counterpart that was released over the spring. The story can’t be taken seriously and some of the subplots actually makes matters worse. Plus, some of the acting is just too over the top and the script is weak. However, the movie is lifted up thanks to some nice performances by Foxx, Tatum and Clarke and the action keeps things rolling at a fast pace which is always needed for something like this. 3 out of 5.