White House Down
July 9, 2023

Movie Review

White House Down

Titling a film “White House Down” promises a certain measure of spectacle and destruction, right? It seems as if Hollywood ordered a demolition of the White House and instead received an oversized amusement park ride. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a level of goofy enjoyment to be had in this 2013 extravaganza directed by Roland Emmerich, a man not known for his subtle storytelling, who has destroyed the White House more times than one can count on their fingers.

The thrill of “White House Down” lies in its extravagance. Watching John Cale (Channing Tatum) defy death repeatedly, prancing around the White House bare-chested while firing off rounds from a stolen firearm, has a certain appeal. It’s just absurd enough to be hilarious. Meanwhile, James Woods’ convincing performance as Walker, the bitter, traitorous Head of the Presidential Detail, offers an all-too-believable villain for our hero to clash with.

In spite of the flamboyant action sequences and humorous dialogue, there are several elements of “White House Down” that could use some Hollywood magic. The film’s pacing is more of a stumble than a sprint, with an early, overly drawn-out setup before all the explosions and mayhem kick in. And while President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) provides some humor, his character lacks a convincing depth, which is somewhat disappointing given Foxx’s talents.

Tatum’s daughter in the film, Emily, played by Joey King, serves primarily as a plot device. It would have been more gratifying if the filmmakers had explored her character with the same fervor they applied to the detonations and gunfire. Additionally, the convenient timing of some plot points defies even the elastic boundaries of this action movie universe.

The film’s choice of villain is perplexing, leaning more into conspiracy theory than any grounded narrative logic. Why would an inside man in the White House opt for such a convoluted scheme when he has ample access to the President? This lack of a believable antagonist undermines the stakes, reducing the tension, and turning a potentially nail-biting thriller into a lighthearted farce.

Now, one might ask, how does “White House Down” advance the action movie genre? There’s the rub. The film in itself might not be revolutionizing action cinema, but it does add a new flavor to the mix. It infuses the typical action movie recipe with a strong dash of political satire and an unexpected sprinkling of humor. The result is an almost cartoonish view of politics and national security, acting as a funhouse mirror reflecting the absurdities of real-life political dynamics.

There’s a distinctly over-the-top, larger-than-life quality to the film that is part and parcel of Emmerich’s cinematic style. From scenes of the president firing a rocket launcher from the back of a limousine to a guided tour amidst a shootout, “White House Down” elevates action absurdity to new heights. It’s not so much pushing the boundaries of the genre as it is blowing them to smithereens with a grenade launcher.

The film’s representation of the President and the dynamics within the White House also adds an intriguing layer. Jamie Foxx’s President Sawyer straddles the line between earnest leader and action hero, bringing a new dimension to the stereotypical portrayal of the presidency in action movies. His presence nudges the genre towards a different angle, and it’s this slight shift in perspective that offers a refreshing take.

A painting needs a few off strokes to appreciate the beauty of the whole. So is the case with “White House Down.” The movie’s foibles become part of its charm, offering an experience that is part explosive action film, part satirical comedy, and part political farce. In a worlddominated by grey and gritty action flicks, “White House Down” brings a jolt of vivid color and tongue-in-cheek humor.

Yes, the film is flawed, but it’s also undeniably enjoyable. It turns the action genre on its head and kicks it down the stairs for good measure, and the result is a wildly entertaining ride. Imagine a rollercoaster with a presidential suite, and that’s “White House Down” in a nutshell.

“White House Down” is the cinematic equivalent of a popcorn machine in overdrive: loud, messy, and overflowing with guilty pleasures. It’s not for the cinephiles seeking high art or the critics seeking nuanced storytelling. But for those seeking a fun night with high-stakes action and low-stakes plot, “White House Down” fits the bill perfectly. It’s a silly, bombastic spectacle, a popcorn movie in its purest form, and sometimes, that’s all a film needs to be.

To paraphrase a saying, ‘a guilty pleasure shared is a guilt halved.’ This film, with its flamboyant flaws and explosive fun, encourages a shared chuckle at its over-the-top antics. It might not win awards for originality, but it does make for a rollicking good time. So, let loose, laugh at the ludicrous plot points, and enjoy the ride.

After all, it’s not every day that the White House goes down with such gusto. From the destruction of iconic landmarks to the heroics of a t-shirt-clad Channing Tatum, “White House Down” serves an unforgettable feast of action, absurdity, and American patriotism with a twist.

Strap in for a fun, frivolous, and thoroughly enjoyable rollercoaster ride through America’s most famous residence. “White House Down” offers a delightfully over-the-top escapade that demands a suspension of disbelief and a large bucket of popcorn. Let the explosions begin!

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