“White House Down” is mindless, unimaginative and all over the place — and that’s exactly how Roland Emmerich feels big screen entertainment for the masses should be, whether we like it or not.
Today is not Capitol Policeman John Cale’s (Channing Tatum) day; as if his estranged relationship with his daughter (Joey King) couldn’t make any progress, now his dream of joining the Secret Service and protecting President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) has been crushed. Not wanting to disappoint his child with the unpleasant news, he decides to take her on a public tour of the White House.
In the midst of the tour, however, the White House comes under attack by a ruthless paramilitary group led by Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke). Their objective: capture the president and seize control of America’s nuclear arsenal.
As the U.S. federal government runs out of options and plunges into chaos, Cale must rescue both his missing daughter and the president, as well as put an end to the havoc the heavily armed invaders are wreaking.
In case you haven’t noticed, the plot bears a striking similarity to what we’ve seen in other famous limited location action films, such as “Die Hard,” “The Rock,” and “Air Force One.”
It seems as though director Emmerich is perfectly content with this clone, opting for a storytelling approach that offers no surprises.
There is no unique flavor in “White House Down;” this is the kind of entertainment you could assemble in a day without putting in much effort.
As far as conspiracy-oriented plots go, I’ve seen better ones than this.
While we do get to see the motivations behind the terrorists’ actions unravel, they get mixed up in too many sociopolitical topics that only function as plot coupons and nothing more. If you ask me, I think Emmerich tried to compensate for his lack of imagination by including segments about our nation’s military, industrial complex and political structure.
Unfortunately, he overstuffed the film to the point where it can’t digest the brain food it was given.
The action set pieces are well staged but not outstanding. With the exception of the car chase on the White House front lawn, the other scenes are basically rehashed moments from the action flicks previously mentioned.
No amount of explosions, gunfire, vehicular warfare, or hand-to-hand combat can disguise this film’s inability to construct exciting action sequences of its own.
Even though Channing Tatum is no stranger to fighting bad guys, he lacks the one essential component that every action hero needs to stand out: presence. Without his own style of charisma, his physical feats are nothing short of uninspired despite his attempts to prove otherwise.
In contrast, Jamie Foxx seems comfortable stepping into the shoes of the President of the United States, evident when he seeks to navigate the world of politics without losing sight of his humanity.
Even though “White House Down” is utterly ridiculous, at least he knows how to go with the flow and have fun in the process.
Maggie Gyllenhaal and Richard Jenkins are probably the only cast members who imbue the film with an unassuming modesty, the former being a concerned Secret Service agent and the latter being the even-tempered Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Jason Clarke’s portrayal of the paramilitary group’s head honcho is laced with impulsive volatility; you can pretty much see the fury in his eyes as he issues orders to his men. James Woods makes for a watchable complicated individual in his role of the Head of the Presidential Detail, though at times his performance wavers between plausible and over the top. Joey King is a geeky yet effective daughter of Tatum’s character.
If you’re willing to overlook the lackluster story, mishandled subtexts and cardboard action sequences, you’ll enjoy “White House Down” for what it is. Otherwise, sit tight and wait for a summer blockbuster that isn’t shot to hell.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image.
Running time: 2 hours and 11 minutes
Playing: In general release