White House Down

Directed By: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, Garcelle Beauvais, Lance Reddick, Joey King, Rachelle LeFevre, and Michael Murphy

It's been one hell of a week.  The very foundations of American democracy have been rocked by an outright malicious Supreme Court.  Our Congressmen continue to extend their record streak of sitting on their asses doing nothing.  We’re ultimately left to suffer from all of this.  It's needless to say that I don't have too much faith in our government right now.  At the end of this shameful week in American history, we should all go watch a movie about peace in the Middle East and rightwing nuts laying siege to the White House in the revolution they’ve been craving.  As sugary as that sounds, we should all go see the mindless White House Down (unless you're a hardcore conservative).  It's surprisingly therapeutic despite its many flaws.

Capitol Police Officer John Cale (Channing Tatum) is on the security detail for Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins), but he has aspirations to do more.  He wants to join the Secret Service to protect the President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx), his daughter Emily's (Joey King) hero.  With the help of a friend on Vice President Alvin Hammond's (Michael Murphy) staff, John lands an interview with the Secret Service and gets two passes to visit the White House.  Since he has Emily for the week, he's going to take her along to the White House for his interview.

Meanwhile, President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) is busy announcing a treaty with the Iranian President overseas whereby the United States will remove its entire military presence from the Middle East.  The defense industrial complex and many politicians stateside are far from happy about this, and the President faces a backlash for such a proposal.  While his wife Alison (Garcelle Beauvais) is in France trying to get European governments to buy into this treaty, Sawyer returns to the White House with Secret Service agents Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Martin Walker (James Woods), the head of his detail.  Soon after, the Capitol is bombed and the President finds the White House under siege by mercenaries.  Finnerty and Walker are of no help.  Luckily, John Cale, who just interviewed for a position with the Secret Service, is in the building.  The problem is that 61 hostages, including Emily, are also there.

Roland Emmerich does nothing to mask his political views in White House Down.  There are plenty of similarities to our sad political reality today.  Rightwing wackos have symbolically blown up the Capitol, and they are laying siege to the White House with every opportunity they have.  Those wackos are arguably the House Republicans.  The problem with this largely satisfying criticism is that it gives us an unnecessarily rosy view of the White House.  Though I support President Obama and much of what he's somehow managed to accomplish, I don't support drones.  I don't support his government's collection of our data.  I don't support his rather mild-mannered approach in dealing with Congress.  Emmerich largely depicts Obama as a victim of the political machine.  To an extent, he is, but he's also a dominant force within that machine today.

White House Down is definitely a disaster film that allows Independence Day director Roland Emmerich to blow up more government buildings, but it feels more akin to the original Die Hard.  It's a real shame because it reflects unoriginal writing at best.  Criminals that are thought to be terrorists seize the White House.  A visitor who happens to be a cop is left roaming the building and being a thorn in the side of our villains.  Our bold White House tourist is named John and has family problems with his ex-wife Melanie (Rachelle LeFevre) and his daughter Emily.  You can even see similarities between some of the action sequences in the elevator shafts and on the rooftop of the White House.  Ultimately, this movie is too much like what happened at Nakatomi Plaza some 25 years ago, but it's nowhere near as good.  Thank goodness for the overt political overtones.

This Die Hard knockoff has its fair share of problems.  The action is one of them.  When castle goes down, the number of pulse-pounding action sequences should go up.  This is not the case.  Instead, we're treated to rather underwhelming action sequences that just feel rushed and sloppy.  This flick will not satisfy the action junkie in you.  On top of this, DC feels too digitized.  We all understand that Roland Emmerich would never be able to pull off these explosive action sequences at any of the historic landmarks in the city.  That being said, the digital DC that Emmerich creates for such a purpose should look real and not like some bright and shiny simulation of it.

Another major issue plaguing White House Down is that the cast is completely out of sync.  Channing Tatum, an actor who does not have the leading man chemistry to carry a film like this, falls victim to his countless failed attempts at comedy throughout the movie.  He's in some weird acting limbo trying to channel something between a young Bruce Willis and a young Will Smith.  While former comedian Jamie Foxx delivers a few good laughs as President Sawyer, a caricature of President Obama, the rest of the cast just drops the ball in this area.  As lead mercenary Emil Stenz, Jason Clarke is too busy still playing an antagonistic version of his character from Zero Dark Thirty that he's entirely too serious for the movie.  Meanwhile, James Woods is busy channeling a cartoonish villain of the 90s throughout the movie, and Maggie Gyllenhaal and Richard Jenkins portray fairly bland characters that add very little color to the film.  Altogether, this is not a unified cast focused on putting out a tonally coherent film.

While I respect Roland Emmerich's guts for putting some politically charged themes into a $150 million big budget movie, I can't let this bias my view of this film as an action thriller.  I can't endorse this movie.  White House Down just doesn't get the job done.  It's too cheesy.  The action disappoints, and the special effects are surprisingly unimpressive.  Beyond all of this, the cast just never quite finds its rhythm as one unit.  It's just easier to watch a good movie at home rather than wasting your time on this poor one.  White House Down gets a 0.09% rating.  Have some electric lemonades with this one.  I'm sure John Boehner will if he ever sees this movie.