Running Time: 2 hours 11 minutes
John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a DC cop who is assigned to the protection detail of the Speaker of the House, but he hopes to join the Secret Service. On the day of his interview with the Secret Service he brings his daughter Emily (Joey King) with him so that afterwards they can take a special tour of the White House. The tour becomes a nightmare when a group of commandos dressed as repairmen take over the White House in an attempt to seize President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Cale is forced into action when he gets separated from his daughter and decides to put himself in danger to find her, and ends up being the only thing standing between the President and the terrorists. The attack on the White House is only one part of a multi-pronged assault on the US government and if Cale can’t get the President to safety, the damage done to the country may be irreversible.
I fully expected White House Down to be a mindless, paint-by-numbers action movie. It manages to be a lot more than that and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The movie spends its first 20 plus minutes doing some good character development which is important because it helps you invest in the characters and understand their motivations better. The plot is also multi layered enough to keep you engaged in the story, wondering what the next piece of the puzzle would be. There are some excellent performances in this movie led by Channing Tatumand Joey King as father and daughter as well as Jason Clarke and James Woods as the orchestrators of this attack. It is smarter and has more heart than I expected and I was surprised at the impact of some of the more stirringly patriotic moments of the film.
There were a few negatives for me in White House Down, and foremost among them is the fact that the movie suffers from A Team syndrome. That means that, like the TV show The A Team, thousands of rounds of machine gun bullets are shot at Channing Tatum and he also survives a handful of explosions and he never suffers anything worse than a few superficial cuts. I don’t mind that type of thing in movies which have completely set aside any expectation of reality (G.I. Joe, Fast and Furious and any Schwarzenegger movie) but this film strives to maintain a level of reality and establish real life stakes so the lack of realism in the action sequences took me out of the film a little. That aside, White House Down is a good movie that is a great fit for the upcoming 4th of July weekend. B
I was not expecting to be entertained by White House Down, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Channing Tatum has an ease to his performance as John Cale that makes it feel as though he isn't trying too hard. It's easy to believe the love and affection he has for his daughter as well as his sense of honor. I liked the fact that director Roland Emmerich allowed for enough story development in the first thirty minutes. By the time we got to action sequences they had more emotional resonance because we understood and could empathize with the characters.
I disagree with Scott on the action sequences. The whole purpose for these big blockbuster movies is to be full of wild scenarios. The initial take down of the White House felt surprisingly real and plausible, but of course the rest of the action sequences ramp up and are relentless the rest of the movie. They're just as unlikely as all the other big blockbusters this summer with the added bonus of the occasional comedic moment. The one major drawback for me was Jaime Foxx as the President. Foxx is an excellent, physical actor--but in this story, the President is intended to be a nerdy scholar, and Foxx bought too much physicality to the role. I never really believed him to be the President and think this was a big casting mistake. Overall, I had a fun time at the movies B+.