“White House Down” is one of those films where you really expect to roll your eyes just before seeing it because you know it’s probably going to look and feel like every other film that involves threats towards the president and the U.S. government. Surprisingly, “White House Down” manages to exceed expectations. It isn’t a waste of time, nor will it really have you rolling your eyes either. The action is ample enough without overexerting its presence (although it sometimes flirts with being overkill), and the story is simple enough and doesn’t try and give you a migraine trying to figure it out.
John Cale works to protect the Speaker of the House (Richard Jenkins) as a part of the Capitol police. To help him reach hero status again in his daughter, Emily’s (Joey King) eyes, Cale takes her with him to the White House where he’s set to be interviewed by Agent Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) of the Secret Service. It turns out they know each other from college, but just because they do, doesn’t mean that Finnerty’s giving him the job of protecting the president.
Feeling like an utter failure, Cale leaves and gets sucked into a tour of the White House right before all hell breaks loose and a paramilitary group violently takes over in order to get to President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). The movie then takes off into a world of hand to hand combat, car chases across the White House lawn, and a lot of shooting in order to prevent the president from being captured.
While Channing Tatum should try for more comedy roles (“21 Jump Street” is still one of his best films), he plays his role well here. There’s no real melodrama; it’s just a man and his mission to save his daughter and try to help keep the president from dying. You know, just a typical day for Tatum.
Jamie Foxx is endearing and gives the presidential role a little humor and leeway. Foxx proves that maybe presidents need to wear sneakers a little more often. He and Tatum make a great team and play off of each other pretty well. Maggie Gyllenhaal exerts enough force and control, but her role isn’t anything more than a plunger trying to stop a flood.
While there’s never really a boring moment, director Roland Emmerich does drag along the action for a little too long in the final stretch of the film. Some things are slowed down for dramatic effect and the ending could have had a little more oomph to it in the final showdown between the president and the antagonist, but Emmerich pulls out all the stops to up the wow factor since most of the action does take place inside and around the White House grounds.
The greatest thing about “White House Down” is that it doesn’t try to play up the stereotypical go-to terrorist types that so many other films are quick to use. The movie’s villains make sense in the scope of the conflicts set up between the characters and might hit a little too close to home in terms of certain political views and policies.
One of the other complaints about the film comes in the form of character depth. The movie gives the characters and their conflicts time to be introduced, but it almost feels like the film doesn’t quite pull through in terms of understanding the characters completely. It sets up the conflict well, but never gives us long character scenes to fully flesh out everything that’s happening between them. This would have made for a better-rounded movie.
Having said all of that, “White House Down” is generally entertaining and well paced. The movie doesn’t slow down. As soon as it starts, it jumps from scene to scene with adrenaline-fueled momentum that doesn’t let up. Much better than anticipated and worthy of being seen.