WRITTEN BY: James Vanderbilt
DIRECTED BY: Roland Emmerich
STARRING: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Jason Clarke, James Woods, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins, Joey King
RATING: 3 stars
White House Down is basically a funnier version of Olympus Has Fallen, which was released earlier this year – and in some ways, that is quite a good thing. The filmmakers know they have a ridiculous story about a terrorist attack on the White House, and so, they just have fun with it. The first two-thirds are enjoyable with some good one-liners and action scenes reminiscent of Die Hard (although nowhere near as good as that pinnacle of action films) but then the final act falls apart a bit. The film is also too long and needed to have about 20 minutes cut out. But, what really makes the film stand-out against similar films of its genre is that there is a strong cast in pivotal roles that elevate it just enough to make White House Down a little more memorable.
John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a former soldier hoping to join the Secret Service to impress his 11-year-old daughter Emily (Joey King) who is obsessed with politics but does not get to see much of her dad. A former friend/flame (it is not really clear) Agent Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) works in the Secret Service and it is her job to hire new recruits. But she does not think Cale is up for the job because he never finishes anything and he is notoriously unreliable. But when terrorists invade the White House, it is up to Cale to protect President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) and prevent World War Three.
Tatum has never really impressed me with his acting chops, but there are some performances that are at least a little more convincing than others. Fortunately, his performance in White House Down is one of his best. He looks like an action hero and he is actually very good at the comedy parts too. Foxx was unfortunately less convincing as a president. He lacked the presidential aura and only had a few good comedic moments. Young King was quite good, although she over-acted in a few scenes. Gyllenhaal was also solid and it is good to see her in a different kind of role.
Jason Clarke plays Stenz, one of the key terrorists. He must be one of the most underrated talents in Hollywood at the moment. Following great performances in films such as Zero Dark Thirty, Lawless and The Great Gatsby, he is exceptional yet again in this film. He seems to get a lot of good small roles, but I would love to see the Aussie actor carry a film. James Woods is also powerful in a surprisingly complex villainous role. Richard Jenkins rounds out the veteran talent as the secretary of state.
Director Roland Emmerich certainly knows how to blow things up and deliver on the action in his films. He has previously given us Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and Godzilla to name a few, and White House Down is just as, well, explosive.