Roland Emmerich is back and this time he can’t blow up cities as he is confined to a single building (which he already blew up in 1996). So is White House Down preventing Emmerich from doing the only thing he knows how to do?
„Tell me we don’t have the best job in the world?“
Is one of the lines a worker at the White House happily exclaims when the president’s helicopter lands in Roland Emmerich’s new disaster movie White House Down – which pretty much sums up what you can expect from this movie.
Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street, Magic Mike) is a divorced father who tries to get a job in the secret service but he is deemed not reliable enough by his ex-flame Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Dark Knight, Crazy Heart).
Well, it turns out that during a tour through the White House which Channing and Joey are taking they meet Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained), the president of the United States – the greatest man ever who just comes back from trying to achieve world peace.
But not everyone wants world peace so a disgruntled Head of the Presidential Detail James Woods (Casino) and Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) take over the White House to do evil stuff and start World War 3.
Emmerich and ‘merica!
Roland Emmerich is no stranger to pro America movies. Independence Day is one of my all time guilty pleasures of mine. There is not a single shred of cynicism in this movie. It is a movie completely convinced that America is the greatest country that ever was or will be.
And the same thing applies to White House Down. Roland Emmerich has been stuck in a time long past. Which for many filmmakers is a bad thing but in Emmerich’s case it is very endearing. His movies are over the top patriotic drivel and they work as such.
What to blow up?
Not counting Anonymous the last time Emmerich was sinking entire continents and smashing boats against the Himalaya.
And while 2012 is probably his crowning piece of mass destruction that has yet to be topped in terms of disaster Emmerich is no stranger to all this:
He froze earth, let a giant lizard loose onto New York and he had aliens almost annihilate our planet… so a movie set in a single building is a pretty challenging task for the master of disaster. One can almost feel the director wrestling with how to blow things up but still keeping the White House standing.
This summer has been filled with movies that failed to live up to their potential. And many of those movies were just a collection of ill thought out stories mashed together to get a decent running time. So I found it quite enjoyable that White House Down had a pretty clear set (translate: low) bar and ticked all the boxes correctly.
Everything is being foreshadowed in the most over the top way possible.
- If a character says “it’s not worth doing this job” do you think he might be evil?
- If Joey King says “it’s only a flag” do you think there is a possibility that a flag might be important?
- If Channing Tatum wishes that his daughter would hug him once more like he was her hero…
- And isn’t it obvious that the president of the United States sees it as his duty to make a little girl believe in America?
And isn’t it great when (spoiler?) at the end everybody smiles and only the great American pretty faces have survived and we can look forward to world peace?
The first act is a bit heavy on exposition and feels stale. But the second presidents get declared faster than Kirk becoming Captain and James Wood changing his motivation for the 3rd time the movie is on a roll… especially when the payoff for Joey King comes you are either with the movie or have already left the theater.
I can’t recommend White House Down to a general audience. But if you are like me and you feel like watching Air Force One and Independence Day on the fourth of July then you might want to make a triple feature and include White House Down!