White House Down – Film Review – 2013 – Film Dispenser

Film June 29, 2013 Scott Phillips
Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every Fall.

There are men screaming in the hallways of the White House, shooting unsuspecting security guards. Flames shoot out of the dome of the Capitol. Our seat of government is under siege. Is it Republican Congressmen distraught over the rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday? No. It’s the opening half-hour of White House Down, Roland Emmerich’s latest cinematic effort to destroy the world or at the very least our nation’s seat of government.

In the opening scenes, John Cale (Channing Tatum) is meeting with Special Agent Finnerty of the Secret Service (Maggie Gyllenhaal) to discuss his application to join the elite protection agency. He has none of the credentials for the job, but through his connections to the Speaker of the House, he lands an interview, so he can be told to his face that his resume is sub-standard. As fate would have it, another friend in the federal government landed him tickets to tour Nakatomi Plaza, ….. uh, the White House, with his daughter, and he is on the scene when a group of domestic terrorists stage the biggest home invasion in U.S. history.

Cale is left guarding the most powerful man in the Western world, President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). None of the government wonks in charge believe in him, but his daughter does, so that’s all that matters. Where would our country be without cute kids who manage to be in the right place at the wrong time and help the adults figure out what’s going on? Evidently, we need a battalion of 12-year-old girls taking the fight to Al-Queda.

I won’t reveal who the villains are and what objectives they are pursuing, though it is hard to “spoil” a movie this obvious in its execution. You have seen it all before, and your first thought about what may happen next is very likely to be correct. The cast of characters is familiar: The evil mastermind sits in a remote office and pulls the strings. The hands-on bad guy (Jason Clarke) guards all the hostages including our hero’s daughter who manages to get separated from him at just the right time during their tour. The computer nerd commences hacking into the White House mainframe, so he can gain control of ….. its sprinkler system? And then we have the unqualified policeman who’s just been rejected and has a history of commitment issues left to save the day.

What follows is a series of incessant, over-the-top action sequences that defy belief and any remote sense of logic. You’ll need girders the size of the Golden Gate Bridge to suspend your disbelief in this film. This is the kind of motion picture where the bad guy is pointing a gun at a good guy and then spends three minutes explaining his evil motives before a convenient distraction allows the good guy to escape so they can have another two or three similar face-to-face meetings later. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me fifty times, it must be a Roland Emmerich film.

White House Down also proves that Channing Tatum’s true acting gift is comedy. He was deadpan hilarious in last year’s 21 Jump Street. Unfortunately, he’s just dead boring in this film. Shoot him or kiss him, his facial expressions are the same. He has none of the snarky, sarcasm and charm of a certain other actor who ran around in a sleeveless t-shirt and saved the day in 1988. And it’s almost painful watching the likes of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins and James Woods spouting dialogue this painfully bad. They appear to be starring in Paycheck: The Movie.

In 1998, Hollywood was infatuated with the Earth being hit by an asteroid. It resulted in the releases of Armageddon and Deep Impact within weeks of one another. Evidently, in 2013, Tinsel Town has a thing for blowing up 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that has given us Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down. If you feel the need for a little catharsis that can only be gotten through taking down your government, then I’d recommend Olympus. It’s practically a documentary compared to White House Down.

My real recommendation would be to skip them both and re-watch the film that inspired this whole genre. Yippee-ki-yay, ….. (sorry, this is a family-friendly site).

6 out of 10

Scott Phillips

The Movie Isle

Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for themovieisle.com. From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for filmdispenser.com. Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.

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