The second film this year to see the US President’s official residence fall into enemy hands is a far more bombastic and lively affair than Antoine Fuqua’s brutal and po-faced Olympus Has Fallen. In White House Down, Jamie Foxx’s Commander-in-Chief forms an unlikely partnership with wannabe secret service man Channing Tatum, and as they crack wise and waste bad guys, we are constantly reminded this is a film from the makers of Independence Day.
Acutely aware of its action movie heritage, Roland Emmerich’s film owes much to its spiritual predecessor, Die Hard, with obligatory scenes of peril and daring-do in elevator shafts, on rooftops, and flying through windows, while on-the-ground intel, laced with insubordination, is relayed to uptight authority figures stranded away from the action. Tatum may lack the cheeky charm of vintage Bruce Willis, but he’s more than competent as the well-meaning blue collar war hero in way over his head.
Emmerich has built a career from the rubble of decimated global landmarks, and refuses to let the confines of the White House restrict his thirst for destruction. Tanks, planes, helicopters and the Capitol itself all take a beating, while seasoned thesps like James Woods and Richard Jenkins bark and sneer as they barter for the fate of the Free World.
As in Michael Bay’s The Rock, beneath the comedy banter and pyrotechnics lie motives grounded in the US Government’s uneasy relationship with its military, but any serious debate is soon brushed aside in the ongoing melee of gunfire, fistfights and witty one-liners.
This review first appeared in Cathay Pacific’s Discovery Magazine, October 2013