In 2007 Mark Wahlberg starred in Shooter which divided film critics along political lines. Those to the left seemed to enjoy it more than those on the right. White House Down seems to be following a similar path. Liberal critics embrace it because the thought of Barack Obama saving the day as an action hero is somehow appealing while conservative critics see the film’s villains as Hollywood painting Obama’s opponents in over the top terms.
Unfortunately in the rush to either embrace or trash the film because it appeals to one’s politics, or crap all over it because it does the opposite, the film winds up being in that same category as Shooter is: A mediocre, run of the mill action film that panders just enough politically to get a reaction in both directions from the mouth-breathing types on both sides of the aisle.
It’s a simple premise. Cale (Channing Tatum) is on the security team of the Speaker of The House (Richard Jenkins) looking to become a member of the Secret Service under President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Cale flunks an interview with a senior member of the President’s detail (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and winds up on a generic White House tour with his daughter, who runs a video blog on YouTube. When the White House is taken over by a goon (Jason Clarke) at the behest of a traitor (James Woods) it’s up to Cale to rescue the President and save the day.
While we already had one Die Hard in the White House film already this year with Olympus Has Fallen this is less Die Hard and more Lethal Weapon in spirit. It has the generic “trapped in (x)” framework of Die Hard but has been designed as much more of a buddy action film between Channing and Foxx. They have an interesting chemistry together; it’s not impressive but its better than most films pairing up two actors who’ve never been in a film together.
Tatum has experience, most recently in 21 Jump Street with Jonah Hill, and he’s clearly figured out his “action hero” persona. It’s just his usual wooden self but with more of a sense of urgency than his usual unremarkable performances. Foxx essentially does an impression of President Obama, which the film helps out by making him a proxy for POTUS in terms of character development. If you ever wanted to see Barack Obama save the world with the Blake Lively’s male counterpart then this is your film.
Other than that, though, it’s a fairly unremarkable film. It’s inferior to Olympus Has Fallen because of the political angle attached it. If it had just been a simple action film, about the White House being taken over for nefarious reasons, it’d be one thing but the attachment of politics in general doesn’t add anything to the film. If anything it feels added on to the film for no real reason.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and it’s the only reason why the film is even memorable in the first place. Take out the political posturing and there’s nothing left that makes it beyond a generic action film.
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer: James Vanderbilt
Notable Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, James Woods, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, Nicolas Wright