“White House Down,” written by James Vanderbilt, directed by Roland Emmerich, 137 minutes, rated PG-13.
Director Roland Emmerich, best known for his patented brainless big-budget disaster movies such as “Independence Day,” “2012,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” etc. etc., really only knows how to make one type of movie: Brainless big-budget disaster movies.
Take, for example, Emmerich’s latest film, “White House Down,” which by all accounts should be a straight-up action movie in the tradition of “Die Hard” or “Speed.” Yet, somehow the destruction of buildings and landmarks becomes Emmerich’s priority yet again.
“White House Down” stars Channing Tatum as John Cale, a veteran returning from Afghanistan, picking up jobs in D.C. while trying to beg, borrow and deal his way into the Secret Service. Landing an interview through a desperate combination of pleading and flirting, Cale takes advantage of his visit to The White House to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Emily (Joey King), who also happens to be a political and history junkie.
While Cale tours the presidential mansion with his daughter, domestic terrorists led by the Head of Presidential Detail (James Woods) lay siege to The White House, taking hostages including Emily, covering all exits and entry points, and tracking down President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Separated from his daughter, Cale finds Sawyer, and his mission becomes twofold: Protect the president and save his daughter.
While gun play and explosions are par for the course, the lifeblood of any good action movie is the chemistry among its cast. In “White House Down,” that mostly falls on the shoulders of Tatum and Foxx, who play up their interactions as if it were a buddy cop movie. As a nod to the action genre, it’s fairly effective, and the comic relief helps keep a light tone that is more in line with Emmerich’s previous films.
Also, much like his previous films, Roland Emmerich blows stuff up. Despite having a supporting cast featuring Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emmerich’s objective is to create some big action scenes. As a filmmaker, it’s what he knows.
Sometimes going into self-mockery, but always out to entertain, “White House Down” understands what it is and does it as well as possible. With that said, the formula the film follows is a little bit tired.
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