The Movie Waffler New Release Review - White House Down | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - White House Down

A cop and his daughter are caught up in a terrorist takeover of the White House.

Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, James Woods, Michael Murphy, Rachelle Lefevre, Matt Craven, Jake Weber

Assigned to protect the speaker of the house (Jenkins), Washington cop John Cale (Tatum) takes his politics-obsessed 11-year-old daughter Emily (King) for a guided tour of the White House. The tour is violently interrupted when a group of heavily armed men detonate a bomb in the building and begin taking hostages. Cale manages to free the President (Foxx) and attempts to keep him alive and rescue his daughter.
You're probably wondering how Emmerich's latest offering, a return to the action genre after his disastrous Shakespearean drama 'Anonymous', differs from this summers previous "White House under threat" movie 'Olympus Has Fallen'. Well, if that film represented the Republicans, 'White House Down' is a Democrat take on the same story-line, removing the xenophobia and general mean-spirited tone that made Antoine Fuqua's actioner such a thoroughly unpleasant experience. If this is what amounts to party political broadcasts, the only winners are the Libertarians.
From the outset, Emmerich and screenwriter James Vanderbilt, who penned the excellent 'Zodiac', let us know their tongues are firmly in their cheeks. Early on, a character mentions the destruction of the White House in Emmerich's 'Independence Day', the first of what is now four times the German director has destroyed that iconic building. Jokey references are made to urban legends such as the secret tunnels Kennedy used to sneak Marilyn Monroe into his residence. Everything seems set up for a fun end of summer romp but it all goes pear-shaped once the action kicks in.
Despite being in this game for over 30 years now, Emmerich still has no idea how to stage action in an interesting and involving manner. He seems to think merely pointing his camera in the general direction of overblown spectacle is enough. While not as bad as Michael Bay, his main competitor for king of the Hollywood hacks, Emmerich has an uncanny talent for making the most outrageous events come across as extremely dull. Likewise, his sense of geography is awful, never giving us any idea of where characters are in relation to each other. There seems to be no communication between the director and his FX artists. Every time there's an explosion in the building, we cut to an exterior shot that makes it appear as if half of D.C has just been nuked, yet once we cut back inside, the damage is minimal.
The 'Die Hard' allusions here are so comprehensive, I'm sure there are grounds for a lawsuit. This is a movie that knows it has no original ideas but can't even find a way to make plagiarism exciting. It's as shameless as it is soulless.
The Hollywood "blockbuster" season was kicked off with 'Olympus Has Fallen', and the fact it's now ending with 'White House Down' speaks volumes about what has arguably been Hollywood's worst ever summer.

Eric Hillis