Directed by Roland Emmerich
Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal
I’m not a Roland Emmerich fan. I can say this having watched and reviewed most of his films. The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, and 2012 are examples of unabashed trash. Perhaps his most successful and definitely most well-known film, Independence Day is a special case. When that film was released I hated it; HATED IT. Now nearly 20 years later I have revisited the film a time or two and I still believe it’s not a good film, but I do see the escapism value of it. Not every film is both good and entertaining; some are one or the other. ID4 as it was eventually called was just entertaining. It’ll never make any of my best of lists or favorite film lists but parts of it make me laugh and the epic nature of it spanning so many characters is entertaining and scarce these days.
This brings me to White House Down, Emmerich’s latest film to destroy the White House. The formula here is as tried and true as a romantic comedy. Terrorists are pissed so with some inside help they hatch a plan to destroy the White House, take some hostages, and make sure their demands are met. The core of this formula worked beautifully with the first Die Hard film, of course replacing the White House with a generic corporate HQ. Jamie Fox plays the president stuck in the building running for his life and trying to find a way to save the hostages. He’s protected by Cale, played by Channing Tatum. Cale is a capitol cop that desperately wants to be a Secret service agent. Past sins keep him from gaining the gig protecting the Prez but when everything goes down he’s the only man available to do just that. So of course Cale gets to prove he can do the job and endear himself to the President. Also in the mix is Cale’s precocious daughter who is politics obsessed and thrilled to be inside the White House until half of it gets blown to bits.
There’s hardly a beat of this film that isn’t 100% predictable from opening credits to the fade to black at the end. You never truly worry for the hero and aren’t really concerned for the hostages that have lines. Yes that sounds bad but wasn’t it the same when we saw Die Hard for the first time? What made Die Hard work was the super hero approach to action the sprinkling of successful humor, the likability of the hero, and the adventure to the end of the film. As I sat watching this movie I began to realize that all of these elements were in place here. The action set pieces were huge and highly enjoyable Fox successfully brings the humor and Tatum manages to pull off that likable everyman type of hero that’s been a crowd pleaser since Die Hard.
As similar as it is to the Die Hard formula I’m not saying that it ever reaches the heights of execution as the classic Bruce Willis film but I am saying that it does exist in the same wheel house. I’ve seen other critics complain about the humor in the film. Have we become so jaded that everything has to be dark and hyper realistic? Action movies were once the fantasy films for audiences that didn’t like swords and unicorns. They’re unrealistic but so is a roller coaster ride. White House down isn’t nearly the best film I’ve seen this year but it is better than most people are giving it credit for.