Okay, White House Down (WHD) was not a priority in my to-watch list., inspite of the fact that it was released right in the middle of Korean Film Festival 2013. Which means all my free time i usually allotted for a visit to the movie theatre actually contributed to watch the films from the fest instead. But then this morning i read a bunch of tweets and RTs about the film and people responses, I know this is an Emmerich film which means, in my country, it guarantee quite a hype (like what happened with 2012). Mmm, color me tempted, mon frère…
So i arrived perfectly on-time, for the 4pm show (choosing the movie chain that is closer to my place). Lo and behold the theater is at least 3/4 full. I haven’t even watched the trailer for this. I only know it’s Tatum (not a big fan of) and Foxx, it involves White House and terrorism/hostage situation (which guarantees it has some kind of political content). The title itself kinda give away the premise of the film. Which is a dead ringer to another flick Olympus Has Fallen which was released several months prior to WHD. Now, Olympus got mixed reception (both critical and commercial), yet it manage to earn US$ 160 million worldwide, which is more than twice of its budget (US$ 60 million). Now, WHD is a bigger production, with estimated costs about US$ 150 million, from its first opening weekend it only manage to secure US$ 20.7 million, while Olympus secured US$30 million. I cant help but wonder if WHD will manage to break even, if not gaining revenue, under the fierce competition of other summer blockbuster film. Okay, let’s get on with this shall we.
White House Down title alone is pretty self explanatory. It’s centers around the terror that threaten the president of the United States which occurs, well, at the White House. It’s supposed to be a slow day at the White House that day. The President of United States, James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx), just come back after the controversial peace treaty negotiation with the middle east. Capitol Policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) has just been denied his dream job when his interview with former acquaintance turn Secret Service (Maggie Gyllenhaal) did not go well. Not willing to let the botched interview messed up his attempt to reconnect with his little daughter Emily (Joey King), he took her on a White House tour that morning. Little did they know the morning was about to go berserk when the House is suddenly crippled under the heavily armed group headed by a rouge government agent.
During the 135 minutes of its run, the movie turn out to be a mixes of all the possible scenario that happened in movies with similar theme. Rouge government agent seeks revenge, suicide mission, hackers, mercenaries, father-daughter issue, political takeover, hostile racist behavior, you name it, everything is there but the kitchen sink. There are so many things that the film hash out but all delivered in a rather shallow and arbitrary manner. The film narrative are formulaic and often illogical, and despite the magnitude of the cast, the characters in the film lacks of depth. This is of course what Emmerich did so well in his previous films. He can took bizarre overstuffed movie and mold it into an exciting, high-octane roller-coaster for the general audience. Which usually made his film into a guaranteed blockbuster. I even appreciate his attempted homage at his own film, Independence Day.
Despite the flaws, i can not help but to find the film very exciting to see. The action sequence are proper and not overdone, there’s nothing new but it’s still effective to deliver adrenaline rush to those who watches it. I wish the movie would be shorter because it feels slightly dull in the second half. I think some of the dialogue are quite witty. James Vanderbilt made a very hip script where bad guys have diabetes and apparently the president are concern about who touches his Jordans. Well that being said, i did not buy the film as an actual political thriller, it has too much lightness and not enough tension. So instead, it felt a bit like buddy cop action flicks instead, it gave a nod to Die Hard and even subtly reminded me of Tatum’s 21 Jump Street to some extent. I personally like the notion to promote peace as well as promoting patriotism through a slightly jingoistic message (‘Our nation is stronger than one house’).
Like i previously said, the characters in the film are very 2 dimensional. But it does not mean the cast are bad. While i think Jamie Foxx does not possess the same grace and charisma that Danny Glover did in 2012, he made a good screen partner with Tatum. The rest of the cast are solid too. I like seeing Jason Clarke again, since i enjoy his performance in both Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby and Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty. So thrilled to see Jimmi Simpson here being quirky sociopath again (he does that so well, even in Psych). My favorite though, are Joey King, who you might’ve seen in The Dark Knight Rises as the young Talia al Ghul, but i’ve seen her in a short-lived comedy tv series Bent before and i hope she’ll do well in the movie business now.
So in summary, White House Down really confuse me. It lacks tension and too cliche to be a thriller, yet it feels weird to adress it as a buddy-cop action flick (namely because they’re no cop and one of ’em is the POTUS). The overall film are predictable and formulaic at best. But this is Emmerich, who hones his craft in delivering exciting film despite all the flawed outcome. Yes, White House Down is definitely fun, hip, and just simply an exciting blockbuster. Supposedly a people pleasure. Just turn off your brain for a sec and enjoy the ride, over thinking will just rob your joy from the film experience.
WHITE HOUSE DOWN (2013)
GENRE Action, Thriller
DIRECTOR Roland Emmerich | PRODUCER Roland Emmerich, Bradley J. Fischer, Harald Kloser, James Vanderbilt, Larry Franco, Laeta Kalogridis | WRITER James Vanderbilt | MUSIC Harald Kloser, Thomas Wanker | CINEMATOGRAPHER Anna Foerster | EDITOR Adam Wolfe | STUDIO Centropolis Entertainment, Mythology Entertainment | DISTRIBUTOR Colombia Pictures | COUNTRY United States | BUDGET $150 million | RUNNING TIME 135 minutes | RATING Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image | RELEASE June 28, 2013
STARRING Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, Joey King, Nicholas Wright, Jimmi Simpson