Does anyone remember the movie Olympus Has Fallen? The movie in which terrorists took over the White House and held the President hostage while they blew things up? And there was this one guy who had to go in and save everyone? Well, that movie is back in theaters. Only this time, it’s called White House Down.
While the two movies are very similar, White House Down has its own traits to offer, such as a dose of humor and a PG-13 rating. But is it worth your time, or should you leave protecting the White House to the Secret Service? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out. (To follow along, go to YouTube and look up “White House Down – Official Trailer #3 (HD) Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx”.)
So who stars in this movie? Channing Tatum, who I have to remind myself is not Tom Hanks, plays John Cale. His other movies include Dear John, The Vow, and 21 Jump Street. Jamie Foxx is President Sawyer; he has starred in movies such as Django Unchained, Ray, and Law Abiding Citizen. And Joey King is Kale’s daughter Emily; previous films include Ramona & Beezus, Oz the Great and Powerful, and The Dark Knight Rises.
The director is Roland Emmerich, the man who directed Independence Day, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and Godzilla. The lineup fills me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, we have Independence Day, a decent enough film and enjoyable. On the other, we have Godzilla, which was kind of stupid and forgettable. Still, that might have more to do with the writers than the director, so for the moment, I’ll go in with Independence Day expectations.
As the trailer starts, the President arrives at the White House, declaring, “Wake me if civilization ends.” Never say that in an action movie. It always ends badly. Meanwhile, Cale apologizes to his daughter about missing her talent show by giving her a White House pass. That means she can tour the White House while he applies for a job with the Secret Service. So why can’t he make it to his daughter’s talent show if he doesn’t have a job? (And yes, I know he’s a policeman. They just don’t say that in the trailer.)
Cale is interviewed for his job by Maggie Gyllenhaal, an actress I will always remember from The Dark Knight in a role she couldn’t make likable. She’s no more pleasant here as she questions Cale. She asks why he pulled a soldier from a burning vehicle. The better question would be “Why wouldn’t you pull a man from a burning car?” Do you have to ask why someone saves someone else’s life? But Maggie cites numerous reports that Cale can’t follow orders, causing Special Agent Todd to snort, which is apparently all he does in this scene. Multiple times. Finally, Cale gets fed up and says, “If Special Agent Todd keeps making those noises, I’m gonna start looking at him.” Beware the Tatum stare, Special Agent Todd.
But while Cale isn’t breaking the bad news to his daughter, a mystery man is breaking into a National Security computer room to start a really slow . . . download? Upload? I have no idea what he’s doing, but whatever it is, it’s slow enough to be measured in billionths of a percent. Someone hasn’t given up his modem yet. I still like this guy, though. He whistles “The Star Spangled Banner,” he makes each move with the grace of a dancer, he shouts “Showtime!” He’s basically the American version of the BBC’s Jim Moriarty. And I’m going to go ahead and call it that it’s Special Agent Todd. If it isn’t, they’ve wasted their most easily stereotyped character.
American Moriarty’s first move is to blow up the Capitol dome, an attack that may be symbolic, but doesn’t do very much when Congress isn’t even in session. You can clearly see that there are no flags raised over either wing, which means that no one is meeting. He may have gotten a few aides and some tourists, but it’s hardly the World Trade Center. Also, who planted those bombs in a very exposed dome in America’s most secure city without anyone noticing? His next move is to take out Air Force One (I think; it’s a little hard to tell in this shot) with a US missile. Again, the president wasn’t aboard, so slightly pointless.
As people in the White House hear the news, Mystery Man’s henchmen storm the place. Again, I’ve just got to ask, how did the guy in the black tank top with the machine gun get into the White House? Did none of the Secret Service men think he was just a little bit suspicious? But the thugs radio in to their boss to tell him they’re holding the president in the library with the candlestick. So of course, the only person who can save the hostage, instead of all the Secret Service who should have been in the building, is John Cale. Somehow he gets hold of a machine gun and goes into the library, beating up the thugs and leading President Sawyer to an elevator shaft, all the while reminding himself how stupid this is. Well, yeah, we know that, but so far it’s been the fun kind of stupid.
As Cale realizes the only way out is up, he asks President Sawyer if he’s ever been rock climbing. He’s the president. When do you think he has time to go rock climbing? Also, there’s a slight difference between rock climbing and climbing a brick elevator shaft with no ropes. But once they’re back on safe ground, Cale contacts Maggie, who says help isn’t coming and they need to get out. Help is not coming? What are those fighter jets, then? The enemy? And if they are, how did they get fighter jets? Why is it that the domestic terrorists are somehow better armed than the United States government? Anyway, Cale refuses to leave without his daughter, even to save the president’s life. Don’t you just love that Hollywood dad who will risk life and limb to save you from the bad guys but won’t come to your talent show or recital? Doesn’t that make you feel consistently loved as a child?
As helicopters are shot down (you know, that help that wasn’t coming?), President Sawyer calls in, trying to contact “whatever power structure we have left.” This connects him to Mystery Man, who replies in a scrambled voice, “Please hold; your call is very important to us.” I love flamboyant villains; they have such a great sense of humor. Meanwhile, a lone helicopter flies through the streets of Washington, soaring by the names of the director’s past works and inspiring confidence in no one. The remaining power structure just now comes to the conclusion that the Capitol dome explosion was a diversion. No kidding? I could have told you that three paragraphs ago! Also, it seems that our heroes have only just now started to wonder who is behind the attacks. The president says, “Only one way to find out.” Skip to the credits and see whose names we don’t recognize.
As we move into the action montage, the two race to the parking garage, and we see that the President of the United States is wearing white shoes with a black suit. Who was the costume designer for this movie again? They hop into Ground Force One, the president’s special armored limo, and Cale reprimands President Sawyer for getting in the back. Does it matter which door he gets in? You’re being chased by men with guns! Get in the car and go, and if you want to change seats, do it later! Also, Cale shouts at the president, “You do not hit me in the head with a rocket launcher while I’m driving!” The things you have to explain to a president. Although I still want to trade Barack Obama for Jamie Foxx with a rocket launcher.
We see lots of guns, lots of explosions, and lots of kicks to the face from Jamie Foxx because the thug attacking him is manhandling his shoes. Oh yeah, and a quick shot of Joey King to remind us she’s in this movie and we’re supposed to care about her rescue. And the trailer ends as Cale tangles with a terrorist and President Sawyer has to put on his glasses in order to shoot straight and take out the bad guy. I have glasses and I still don’t think I’d be able to make that shot.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend this movie? I’d say so, yes. The action seems over the top, a lot of the plot devices are stupid, and there is that eerie similarity to Olympus Has Fallen. However, the movie never takes itself too seriously, and there’s a lot of really funny moments, at least in the trailer. For teens and adults whose expectations aren’t too high, I’d say it’s worth a watch. Will I see it? Probably not in theaters, but I’ll probably rent it when it comes out on DVD. And I’ll feel a lot better about the security of Washington, D.C. Because nothing in this movie could ever happen. Ever.
White House Down is owned by Columbia Pictures.