Starring: Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street), Jamie Foxx (Ray), James Woods (Hercules), Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight)
Director: Roland Emmerich (Independence Day)
Writer: James Vanderbilt (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Runtime: 2 hours 11 minutes
Release Date: 28 June (US), 13 September (UK)
Now in retort to Olympus Has Fallen comes White House Down, another Die Hard-in-The White House action movie. Considering that the former was a dull, emotionless slog of a movie, Emmerich and his team don’t have too much competition in my opinion. But does it rise above its distant cousin, or does it fail just the same?
The broad strokes of White House Down are nearly identical to Olympus Has Fallen: a terrorist cell infiltrates the White House, and one man who happens to be around is the only one who can save the day. But in the finer details the two have their differences, the most key difference being tone: whilst Olympus was very dour and played in straight, White House Down doesn’t take itself too seriously and actually has fun with the premise. The film is full of clichés and predictable beats, but they are played well and you get so sucked up in the thick of it that you’re having too much fun to care at that point. The humour is corny, but it hits enough times that you keep smiling throughout. Unlike Emmerich’s previous efforts, which attempted to have a worldwide scale with too many characters, this film stays close on a small group of people that allows for a decent amount of character interaction and development. Sure, it’s not exactly Shakespeare but it’s a hell of a lot more than we got in Olympus Has Fallen. My only big issue with the film is that, at over two hours, the film is far too long. A good fifteen minutes could have been cut, especially in the first act, and the film would feel better paced because of it. But otherwise, this is a great blast from the past; a homage to the feel-good action movies of the 90’s before everyone started taking things too seriously.
In the span of about two years, Channing Tatum has gone from a wooden schmuck to a likeable actor. His charm works well in the part here, but he is also believably tough enough that you buy it when he jumps into Commando mode. Foxx is great as the President and his chemistry with Tatum is fantastic; whenever he is on screen, the film lights up instantly. I just wish they weren’t so blatant about the Obama parallels. Joey King does good work as Tatum’s daughter, though I do think they went a little young with the casting; I know they say she’s smart for her age but she acts far too teenage-y for an 11 year old. Jason Clarke has some fun hamming it up as one of the bad guys, and you could easily imagine that he’s just playing his character from Zero Dark Thirty gone nuts. It’s nice to see James Woods back in a prominent part, though I wish he got a little more to do. Gyllenhaal and Richard Jenkins provide decent supporting work, but don’t do much to stand out from the pack.
At the end of the day, you come to a Roland Emmerich film to watch s*** get destroyed real good, and there’s plenty of that here. All of the action is well choreographed and filmed, with rarely a moment destroyed by that damn shaky-cam that sunk Olympus Has Fallen. A car chase across the White House lawn and Tatum’s final showdowns against the main villains are particular stand out moments that will have you cheering and laughing with joy at the way these guys get their comeuppance. The only advantage Olympus has over it is that it was rated R, and at points the PG-13 rating does feel like it compromises the ridiculousness of the chaos. But just think about this: I can clearly remember most of the action scenes in White House Down, and I can’t remember a single action beat in Olympus Has Fallen. Just goes to show you that a more adult rating does not a better movie make. On the negative side, some of the CG looks a little unpolished and the score often relies too much on stock music beats. But overall, this is a good technical package.
White House Down is pure fun, and that’s all I can ask for from this type of film. It blows Olympus Has Fallen right out of the water in every facet, and is Emmerich’s best film since Independence Day. If you like cheesy 90’s action movies like The Rock or Con Air, this is a movie you really need to go see with a bunch of mildly inebriated friends and just have some fun.
FINAL VERDICT: 7.5/10