Monday, August 19, 2013

Film Review - White House Down

White House Down is so generic that it almost seems like it was intended to be an homage to by-the-numbers 90s action flicks. The vintage vibe isn’t entirely surprising as director Roland Emmerich is probably still best known for his early blockbusters such as Stargate (1994), Independence Day (1996), and Godzilla (1998). White House Down isn’t bad but it feels dated to the point of being retro and unfortunately not in an intentional, creative way. 

Emmerich is known for spectacle movies with big explosions and high octane action. Destroying famous landmarks is something of a staple of his (think of the iconic scene from Independence Day in which an alien spacecraft destroys the White House) and White House Down nearly hinges on this appeal. Part of the fun of the movie is the rollercoaster ride of just watching these incredible set pieces obliterated in wonderful ways. As the title suggests most of the film takes place in the White House and through the over two hour running time we are treated to an action packed tour of the most famous house in the world in which the blue room, green room, red room, and nearly every other room is shredded by bullets and torn up in fist fights. 

The film’s real strength lies in the chemistry between lead actors Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. In the story Tatum plays a military veteran who is struggling to reconnect with his young daughter as he works a job in security for a congressman. Early on he interviews for a job in the President’s (Jamie Foxx) secret service, mainly to impress his civic minded but emotionally distant daughter. Before the pair can leave the grounds anarchy erupts when a group of armed terrorists infiltrate the building, murder senior officials, and take the rest of the house hostage. When Tatum slips away he runs into a frazzled Jamie Foxx and becomes responsible for the President’s safety and escape. Through the rest of the film the pair plots, sneaks, and fights their way through the White House grounds and to the center of a conspiracy with global ramifications. 

White House Down is both exciting and funny in large part to Tatum and Foxx’s credit. The film is essentially a “buddy cop film” and Tatum and Foxx make an excellent dynamic duo. Channing Tatum has blazed a bright trail for himself in lead action roles like G.I. Joe and his heroic hunk wheelhouse is in full force here. Jamie Foxx, appearing in his first feature film since last year’s critically acclaimed performance in Django Unchained, showcases an unexpectedly masterful talent for comedic relief. Hilarity erupts both from the character’s conflicting personalities and their ridiculous antics. Whether they are cracking jokes while stuck in an elevator shaft or spinning donuts in a limousine through the Rose Garden, the chemistry between Foxx and Tatum is tangible and keeps the film pulsing with energy. 

The film falters with a fair share of generic plot points and forgettable characters. Outside of Tatum and Foxx, none of the other characters are particularly memorable and anyone who has seen an action movie before can probably see the “twists and turns” coming. The bloated running time (137 minutes) seems unnecessary for this type of film and things start to drag near the end. If White House Down had been released twenty years ago with a shorter running time it might have been an action classic. In 2013 it just feels outdated and predictable. 

White House Down is the perfect matinee movie or Red Box rental. There is nothing that is going to “wow” anybody, and there are plenty of shortcomings, but it’s a fun movie and a good time. At the least White House Down is a humorous, nostalgic tip of the hat to the action movies of yesteryear. 

Grade: C+

Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk/Page