White House Wannabes – ★★½
Roland Emmerich is in a very elite group of film-makers. He stands alongside men like Michael Bay and Paul W.S. Anderson (you could also add Brett Ratner and McG in there) as men who studios love and serious film fans hate. They’re derided for making soulless, over-the-top action films that have a check-list of things like…
- Be patriotic to the American cause
- Downgrade women to eye candy and home comfort status
- Get the biggest, silliest guns and explosions you can find
- 90 minutes is never enough, take it over two hours baby
- Make shitloads of money
Whether you connect with films like Independence Day, 2012, Transformers (x3) or Resident Evil (x3) on any level is really down to how you approach these titles. Most enlightened film buffs go in looking for mindlessly entertaining action with fingers crossed that the film delivers a few funny one-liners, a crazy villain and a pretty girl.
Emmerich’s latest offering White House Down aims big by setting up a story of a direct attack on Washington D.C.’s White House and an attempt to take the president (Jamie Foxx) hostage. Channing Tatum is John Cale, the man interviewing for a secret service job who gets trapped in there with his politically enthusiastic daughter Emily (Joey King). The insider gang of terrorists is led by James Woods and Jason Clarke, while Richard Jenkins and Maggie Gyllenhaal provide weighty “proper actor” support from the outside.
The setup should of course sound very familiar and the similarities with Olympus Has Fallen from a few months are unfortunate and mean the film is up against it straight off the bat as audiences will already have had their fill of hero saves the white house films for the year. This is a more PG-friendly effort without the foul language and violent action of Olympus, instead putting a focus on the father-daughter relationship, which is believable enough and works fine as Tatum is such a brilliant screen presence and fits the part perfectly. What doesn’t work at all is the President. Foxx is Obama-lite, a basketball lover trying to give up smoking. Any time he’s on screen the film instantly drags you down and has you checking the time on your watch.
If anything the films that White House Down owe so much to are in fact the Die Hard series. Bring a notebook in with you and clock up the amount of references in there. Estranged father whose kid won’t call him Dad and prefers “John”, a white vest, a black guy as side-kick, enclosed single-building set-pieces, hanging out in elevators and ducts, hacker who loves classical music, hero’s loved one revealed to terrorists midway through film.
So all in all it’s ridiculous and overly long but somehow the daft-o-meter tips firmly toward “ENJOYABLE” meaning you will in fact smile your way through most of the film, and isn’t this exactly what Emmerich and the film’s studio financiers would have wanted?
Released nationwide across Ireland on September 13th 2013