What it looked like when the actors attempted to escape the set.


Theatrical Release Date: 06/28/2013
Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Joey King, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, Nicolas Wright, Jimmi Simpson
Rated: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image.
Runtime: 2 hours, 11 minutes


Trailer:

It’s too late to call your agent.

Earlier this year, the President of the United States found himself under siege within his own residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Lane. A small child was thrown into the mix to further tug on the heartstrings and eventually a lone man with something to prove and a certain set of military skills swoops in to save the day, eliminating a cadre of highly trained terrorists along the way.

That movie was Olympus Has Fallen, which was a derivative of Die Hard but stuck to the formula and delivered one of the best action films of 2013. Now, there’s White House Down. For a synopsis, re-read the first paragraph.

And since Hollywood is dead set on testing the short-term memories of audiences this year (see my Soapbox from a few months back), I figure why not take my approach to reviewing the year’s first film about terrorism at the White House and apply it to the newest iteration. And so, here’s a little game of This versus That versus Die Hard (because we might as well keep acknowledging the blueprint for these formula-driven action movies).

White House Down: Terrorists take over the White House on some random weekday, hold people hostage, and attempt to hack into a secure government system.
Olympus Has Fallen: Terrorists take over a building the day after July 4th, hold people hostage, and attempt to hack into a secure government system.
Die Hard: Terrorists take over a building during a Christmas party, hold people hostage, and attempt to crack a giant vault.

White House Down: A Secret Service agent (Channing Tatum), who wants to be selected to the Presidential detail, finds himself alone in the White House attempting to defeat the bad guys and save his daughter (Joey King) and the President (Jamie Foxx).
Olympus Has Fallen: A Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler), previously kicked off Presidential detail, finds himself alone in the White House attempting to defeat the bad guys and save the President (Aaron Eckhart).
Die Hard: A New York City Cop (Bruce Willis) finds himself alone in Nakatomi Plaza attempting to defeat the bad guys and save his wife (Bonnie Bedelia).

White House Down: Jamie Foxx is the President of the United States being marshaled through the White House by Tatum so staying in contact with one of the only two black characters in the movie with any appreciable dialogue isn’t hard.
Olympus Has Fallen: Butler uses a Bluetooth headpiece and satellite phone to stay in contact with the only black characters in the movie, the Speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman) and the Director of the Secret Service (Angela Bassett).
Die Hard: Willis uses a radio and a car phone to stay in contact with the only black characters in the movie, a LAPD cop (Reginald VelJohnson) and a limo driver (De’voreaux White).

White House Down: Tatum and Foxx use the elevator shaft and underground tunnels to avoid detection (to varying degrees of success). Their sojourn topside in an armored limo with live coverage by the news is not so subtle.
Olympus Has Fallen: Butler and the President’s son use the inner tunnels and secret passageways of the White House to avoid detection (to varying degrees of success).
Die Hard: Willis uses the ventilation ducts of Nakatomi Plaza to avoid detection (to varying degrees of success).

Well … that was … fun? There’s actually very little point in providing thoughtful criticism about White House Down. Director Roland Emmerich used the film to continue his obsession with destroying famous landmarks (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012). The action is about as well thought out as a snack choice at three in the morning and the script shows even less imagination. The acting is generally poor, Tatum and Foxx look to have done as much character study as I did in a web design course at college where the only project was to create a web page and I had already made one before the semester so I just presented it at the end and got my A. However, Jason Clarke comes off looking like Brando next to everyone else and I have a hopeful theory that Richard Jenkins uses the occasional big budget film like this to keep himself available for the independent features in which he’s proven himself to be so very good.

Also going along with a classic Emmerich cinematic tradition, a number of obvious but seemingly useless bits of information in the first few scenes comes back to rear their predictable and ridiculous heads in the final act. And don’t expect military realism. This is the kind of movie where the highly trained pilot of an advanced fighter jet waits until he’s practically on top of his ordered target to start begging for final clearance to launch a missile that could, and should, have been fired miles away.

When it comes to more decent acting performances, more believable military tactics, more intense fight choreography, and a more realistic body count, Olympus Has Fallen simply has more of just about everything than Emmerich’s cliché fest, except for the number of minutes it takes for the whole affair to be over. But by virtue of the fact that I was laughing at White House Down for huge chunks of its two and a half hours, the film escapes a truly horrific rating.

However, don’t mistake that kindness for an indication of the filmmaking quality … of which there isn’t much. Only by the unintended ability to be so terrible that it can be enjoyed on some perverse level did this not sink to the depths so many other films in the multiplexes find themselves floating. There’s no way I’d recommend spending money to see this in theaters. There’s no way I’d recommend spending money to see this at home. However, if you find yourself on the back end of a adult beverage drinking session, you might be able to reach the right mindset not to change the channel when this hits free cable.

2 out of 5