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Review: White House Down

Jun. 27, 2013by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: When a paramilitary group takes over the White House, a U.S Capitol cop, John Cale (Channing Tatum) - who flunked his interview to join the secret service- is the only one left to protect the president (Jamie Foxx), and prevent World War III.

REVIEW: Hey wait, doesn't this all seem a little familiar? Didn't Gerard Butler just save the president from North Korea? Who's screwing with the commander in chief now? OK, to be fair James Vanderbilt's script for WHITE HOUSE DOWN was already making the rounds before OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN ever got close to production (read my review of that film HERE), so it's not really a case of one movie ripping off the other. While that film took a hardcore, R-rated (almost retro) action approach, WHITE HOUSE DOWN is a tent-pole PG-13 movie that's clearly aiming for the widest possible audience.

Truth be told, Roland Emmerich's movies haven't worked for me in a long time. While I loved STARGATE and THE PATRIOT, and enjoyed ID4 as a kid (it plays sillier now than it did in '97), his last few movies- 10,000 B.C, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, and 2012 really didn't work for me except on a so bad it's good kind of way. To my surprise, I ended up really getting a kick out of WHITE HOUSE DOWN. While it's easily as ridiculous as any of Emmerich's other movies, this time the cheese factor was just right and I ended up having a whale of a time with it.

If WHITE HOUSE DOWN is patterned on anything, it's Emmerich's own INDEPENDENCE DAY (which even gets named-checked), mixed with a heavy dose of DIE HARD. In fact, the DIE HARD influence is so strong that the baddies' hacker, played by Jimmi Simpson, is clearly modeled on Clarence Gilyard's Theo, to the point that he even listens to classical music (not 'Ode to Joy'- that would be too obvious).

Channing Tatum's everyman hero also seems heavily patterned on John McClane. Like Willis in DIE HARD, he's named John, and spends most of the movie in a dirty-undershirt. He's a similar kind of working-class hero, with him almost being laughed out of his secret service interview for not having the right qualifications. And where McClane had to rescue his wife, here Cale's priority is his precocious daughter, who's been rounded up as a hostage by the baddies. A lot of the DIE HARD story-beats work their way into the story, with the villains being initially unaware of who Cale's daughter is, and Tatum at first trying to resist the call the action until being forced into action to save the president's life.

While people may have once scoffed at Tatum being turned into an action hero, it can't be denied that Tatum feels just right in the part. His massive female fanbase will love Emmerich's liberal sprinkling of cute scenes, with Tatum being introduced while talking to a squirrel, and the stuff with his daughter. The rest of us will like how Tatum seems to be doing a lot of his own stunts, and plays along with Emmerich's playful vibe, differentiating it from the more serious OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN.

As the commander in chief, more than a little Barack Obama has worked it's way into Jamie Foxx's performance, although this isn't a full-on impersonation. Foxx's buddy-buddy camaraderie with Tatum is fun to watch. He also doesn't take the part too seriously, with the president even finding time early on to slip into his Air Jordan's, making the running around the White House a little easier on his feet. Stupid? Yes. Funny? Also yes.

The baddies here are a rogues gallery of ultra-right wingers, with their ranks including white-power extremists, mercenaries, and disillusioned soldiers, bankrolled- as Foxx puts it- by the military-industrial complex. Conspiracy buffs will love this. The gang of no-goodnik's is led by Jason Clarke, a former black ops soldier looking for a little payback. Ultimately he's just the henchman of a big bad who's revealed early in the film, although I won't spoil who it is here- even though it's painfully obvious.

The rest of the cast is very solid, as is the usual in an Emmerich movie. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays the secret service agent who's sidelined and has to talk Tatum through the White House on a walkie-talkie (the Reginald VelJohnson part- although she's cuter), while Richard Jenkins is the Speaker of the house who finds himself the next-in-line to be president. James Woods makes a welcome return to the mainstream as the head of the secret service, complete with a Johnny Unitas style flat-top haircut that makes him look stern and menacing.

Of course, no matter what the pedigree of the cast is, it can't be denied that WHITE HOUSE DOWN is absolutely absurd, to the point that it makes OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN look relatively modest by comparison. However, that's part of the charm of Roland Emmerich films. In his first all-out action movie since UNIVERSAL SOLDIER, WHITE HOUSE DOWN benefits from some of the clearest, and easiest to follow action scenes in recent memory, with this ditching the BOURNE-like quick-cutting that's been in vogue lately. Emmerich seems to realize that's the movie he's making is ridiculous, so he has fun with it, even including a hilarious car chase across the White House lawn, complete with a rocket-launcher wielding president (with a newscaster having the best line of the movie, saying- with a straight-face- it appears that the president is firing a rocket launcher at his pursuers, or something to that extent). The only way this could have been more ridiculous is if aliens suddenly landed, but luckily Emmerich is saving those for INDEPENDENCE DAY 2 (although zombies get a shout out).

Obviously WHITE HOUSE DOWN won't be everyone's idea of a good time, but I had a blast with it. At times, it comes dangerously close to either (A) being too stupid, or (B) being too much of a DIE HARD-clone, but in it's 137 minutes, it comes just shy of overstaying it's welcome. Like OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, you need to check your brain at the door, but also like that film, it's a lot of fun. I'd say it's easily Emmerich's best movie in at least a decade.

Source: JoBlo.com

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1:46AM on 06/27/2013
"As the commander in chief, more than a little Barack Obama has worked it's way into Jamie Foxx's performance"

"The baddies here are a rogues gallery of ultra-right wingers, with their ranks including white-power extremists, mercenaries, and disillusioned soldiers, bankrolled- as Foxx puts it- by the military-industrial complex.

Oh for fucks sake.
"As the commander in chief, more than a little Barack Obama has worked it's way into Jamie Foxx's performance"

"The baddies here are a rogues gallery of ultra-right wingers, with their ranks including white-power extremists, mercenaries, and disillusioned soldiers, bankrolled- as Foxx puts it- by the military-industrial complex.

Oh for fucks sake.
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12:55PM on 06/27/2013
Nothing more threatening to the country than those pesky conservatives.... sarcasm intended.
Nothing more threatening to the country than those pesky conservatives.... sarcasm intended.
1:22AM on 06/27/2013

Correction

It's "Commander IN Chief", not "Commander AND Chief"
It's "Commander IN Chief", not "Commander AND Chief"
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+3
9:59AM on 06/27/2013
Some people need to learn about how they should leave their brains at home when going to watch these kinds of movies. You don't have to continually add the "you realise it's stupid" disclaimer because you enjoyed this movie. There's no shame in enjoying these movies - I certainly won't look down at you :o)
Some people need to learn about how they should leave their brains at home when going to watch these kinds of movies. You don't have to continually add the "you realise it's stupid" disclaimer because you enjoyed this movie. There's no shame in enjoying these movies - I certainly won't look down at you :o)
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2:55PM on 06/27/2013
well said, movies like this are made for the summer. You want art wait till around november & december.
well said, movies like this are made for the summer. You want art wait till around november & december.
7:41AM on 06/27/2013
"Maggie Gyllenhaal plays... ...the Reginald VelJohnson part- although she's cuter" .
Haha.

To be honest I didn't expect either of these flicks to be very good, so I'm surprised and glad that both are (supposedly) pretty damn good. Think I'm gonna wait for them to come out on DVD and have a attack-on-the-White House movie weekend.
"Maggie Gyllenhaal plays... ...the Reginald VelJohnson part- although she's cuter" .
Haha.

To be honest I didn't expect either of these flicks to be very good, so I'm surprised and glad that both are (supposedly) pretty damn good. Think I'm gonna wait for them to come out on DVD and have a attack-on-the-White House movie weekend.
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1:18AM on 06/27/2013
Glad you had a ball and gave it good review, Bumbray! Like all of Emmerich's films, the brain has to wait at the door. The trailers prove that this is the perfect summer popcorn/buddy flick.
Looking forward to checking it out this weekend!
Glad you had a ball and gave it good review, Bumbray! Like all of Emmerich's films, the brain has to wait at the door. The trailers prove that this is the perfect summer popcorn/buddy flick.
Looking forward to checking it out this weekend!
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+2
5:37PM on 06/30/2013
I was surprised I enjoyed this as much as I did. Tatum usually bothers the shit out of me, but besides 21 Jump Street, this is probably the best I've seen him. Foxx was good, though I am still saying that he felt odd as the president and didn't really make me believe he was the commander in chief. I thought James Woods was also great in his role. The bad guys were mostly just ok for me, but the buddy-buddy between Foxx and Tatum was entertaining and the action sequences were great and varied.
I was surprised I enjoyed this as much as I did. Tatum usually bothers the shit out of me, but besides 21 Jump Street, this is probably the best I've seen him. Foxx was good, though I am still saying that he felt odd as the president and didn't really make me believe he was the commander in chief. I thought James Woods was also great in his role. The bad guys were mostly just ok for me, but the buddy-buddy between Foxx and Tatum was entertaining and the action sequences were great and varied. I'd even argue I enjoyed this more than Olympus, though I do think that Gerard butler made for a better action hero. Overall, this movie was very enjoyable and easily the best thing that Emmerich has done in a long, long time.
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5:58AM on 06/27/2013
8/10? It's fun time at the movies!
8/10? It's fun time at the movies!
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8:15AM on 06/29/2013

Stupid movie

Why they are not able to make a good action movie like in the 80s ????

Where is McTiernan when we need him.... in prison I guess
Where is Scott when we need him.... Dead
Where is Cameron when we need him.... playing with f... blue alien
Where is Donner when we need him.... probable too old for this s....
Why they are not able to make a good action movie like in the 80s ????

Where is McTiernan when we need him.... in prison I guess
Where is Scott when we need him.... Dead
Where is Cameron when we need him.... playing with f... blue alien
Where is Donner when we need him.... probable too old for this s....
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10:31AM on 06/27/2013

(SPOILERS)

Unfortunately, after seeing This Is The End, I can't get Tatum's ass out my head! Stupid sexy Tatum!
Unfortunately, after seeing This Is The End, I can't get Tatum's ass out my head! Stupid sexy Tatum!
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3:45AM on 06/27/2013
I enjoyed the hell out of this. It was pretty much pure entertainment: this is the kind of movie in which the presidential limousine drifts across the White House lawn with the baddies in pursuit. If that's your idea of a good time at the movies, you'll eat this all up. It has higher production values than Olympus Has Fallen and honestly, I had a better time with it than the more self-serious Olympus. I think James Vanderbilt wrote a really good screenplay that was self-aware without mocking
I enjoyed the hell out of this. It was pretty much pure entertainment: this is the kind of movie in which the presidential limousine drifts across the White House lawn with the baddies in pursuit. If that's your idea of a good time at the movies, you'll eat this all up. It has higher production values than Olympus Has Fallen and honestly, I had a better time with it than the more self-serious Olympus. I think James Vanderbilt wrote a really good screenplay that was self-aware without mocking the audience. Far as summer blockbuster escapism goes, this is good stuff. Yeah, so maybe Jamie Foxx is trying to play a semi-Obama - set politics aside and have fun with this one.
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2:20AM on 06/28/2013

Fun movie

I might have liked Olympus Has Fallen more, but this a really fun movie. My favorite part had to be the really corny scene of the daughter waving the flag towards the end, pretty much ripping of Nic Cage from the Rock.
I might have liked Olympus Has Fallen more, but this a really fun movie. My favorite part had to be the really corny scene of the daughter waving the flag towards the end, pretty much ripping of Nic Cage from the Rock.
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+0
7:22PM on 06/27/2013

I tried to like this film....

I really tried to like this film. I saw a pre screening on Tuesday night, and I left very disappointed...in spite of not having high hopes in the first place! It is a blatant rip off of Die Hard, and they really jump the shark by having the daughter in the film at all...especially in the final scenes. Tatum is likable in the film, but is definitely not an action star. You can read my full review here:
[link]
There are very minor spoilers in the last half of the review, although they don't
I really tried to like this film. I saw a pre screening on Tuesday night, and I left very disappointed...in spite of not having high hopes in the first place! It is a blatant rip off of Die Hard, and they really jump the shark by having the daughter in the film at all...especially in the final scenes. Tatum is likable in the film, but is definitely not an action star. You can read my full review here:
[link]
There are very minor spoilers in the last half of the review, although they don't go into detail of the scenes.
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9:09AM on 06/27/2013
This got an 8!?!?! That's awesome! I figured this would be a little ridiculous in parts and a total "check your brain" kind of movie. But with Roland Emmerich, I also figured it'd be a "it's so bad it can't be enjoyed" kind of movie. So the fact that you can at least be entertained by it for 2 hours is a plus. Still not going to see it, but nice to see it got a good review.
This got an 8!?!?! That's awesome! I figured this would be a little ridiculous in parts and a total "check your brain" kind of movie. But with Roland Emmerich, I also figured it'd be a "it's so bad it can't be enjoyed" kind of movie. So the fact that you can at least be entertained by it for 2 hours is a plus. Still not going to see it, but nice to see it got a good review.
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8:43AM on 06/27/2013
8/10??!.. lol yeah, right. I'll believe it when I see it. Which will be in several months when it comes out on dvd because there's no way I'm getting tricked into watching this at the theater. From the trailer this movie looks so mediocre, I bet it's a 6/10 at best. And I'm not getting an 8/10 vibe from reading the review. I think this has more to do with Channing Taturm starring in the movie and the new found love for him on this site.
8/10??!.. lol yeah, right. I'll believe it when I see it. Which will be in several months when it comes out on dvd because there's no way I'm getting tricked into watching this at the theater. From the trailer this movie looks so mediocre, I bet it's a 6/10 at best. And I'm not getting an 8/10 vibe from reading the review. I think this has more to do with Channing Taturm starring in the movie and the new found love for him on this site.
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8:36AM on 06/27/2013

Cool

I figured this would be a "check your brain" kind of movie, but it's nice to see it's entertaining too. Thanks for the great review, Chris, I might actually give this one a shot.
I figured this would be a "check your brain" kind of movie, but it's nice to see it's entertaining too. Thanks for the great review, Chris, I might actually give this one a shot.
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1:24AM on 06/27/2013

Sweet!

It took me a while to warm up to Channing, now I enjoy the hell out of his sense of comedic timing and levity. I'm glad to see him taking up the sued-mantle for McClaine.
It took me a while to warm up to Channing, now I enjoy the hell out of his sense of comedic timing and levity. I'm glad to see him taking up the sued-mantle for McClaine.
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-1
7:14PM on 06/27/2013

I tried to like this film....

I really tried to like this film. I saw a pre screening on Tuesday night, and I left very disappointed...in spite of not having high hopes in the first place! It is a blatant rip off of Die Hard, and they really jump the shark by having the daughter in the film at all...especially in the final scenes. Tatum is likable in the film, but is definitely not an action star. You can read my full review here:
[link]
There are very minor spoilers in the last half of the review, although they don't
I really tried to like this film. I saw a pre screening on Tuesday night, and I left very disappointed...in spite of not having high hopes in the first place! It is a blatant rip off of Die Hard, and they really jump the shark by having the daughter in the film at all...especially in the final scenes. Tatum is likable in the film, but is definitely not an action star. You can read my full review here:
[link]
There are very minor spoilers in the last half of the review, although they don't go into detail of the scenes.
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8:13AM on 06/27/2013

good news

It's come to be expected that a film by Emmerich will be fun & over the top. Count me in now for wanting to see this in theatres. Like I have mentioned before, this and Olympus Has Fallen will make a nice double feature when they are finally released on blu-ray.
It's come to be expected that a film by Emmerich will be fun & over the top. Count me in now for wanting to see this in theatres. Like I have mentioned before, this and Olympus Has Fallen will make a nice double feature when they are finally released on blu-ray.
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2:00PM on 06/30/2013

WHITE HOUSE BOMB!!!!

The Heat wins again baby! That movie sucked too by the way. I'm just happy this movie bombed.
The Heat wins again baby! That movie sucked too by the way. I'm just happy this movie bombed.
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9:52AM on 06/27/2013
8/10? I'm there.
8/10? I'm there.
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1:23AM on 06/27/2013
Very much looking forward to "leaving my brain at the door" for this one. Looks like a ridiculous over the top good time.
Very much looking forward to "leaving my brain at the door" for this one. Looks like a ridiculous over the top good time.
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