At first glance White House Down isn’t much different from Olympus Has Fallen. Both action packed movies about hostile takeovers at the White House, with the burden of saving the day resting on one man’s shoulders. If you cannot handle watching similar movies and choose to see only one, I’d recommend White House Down. This movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and is clearly the wittier version of the two. White House Down applies a sense of humor to its big ideas in a real world context.
White House Down is a character driven action movie, telling the story of John Cale (Channing Tatum; G.I. Joe: Retaliation), a trained military man who gets turned down for his dream job at the White House. Unable to break the news to his White House-obsessed daughter, Emily Cale (Joey King), he takes her on a tour of the place which puts them both in the wrong place at the right time. A hostile takeover from within the ranks of Secret Service ensues and despite being denied the secret service job, John Cale quickly becomes the only man who can save President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx; The Soloist; Rio).
Jamie Foxx was a believable president, up until he began taking on the qualities of an action hero by wielding guns, wearing Air Jordans and fighting bad guys. Though surprised, I wasn’t disappointed, I much prefer this new spin on POTUS- it was hilarious. Foxx did an excellent job straddling the line of professionalism and a charismatic heart driven man who just wants to do the right thing.
The President’s main mission was to enact a global peace policy which was looking like a lost cause thanks to James Woods expertly crafted antagonist, Martin Walker. Woods gave a flawless performance as the former head of Presidential detail hell bent on avenging his son’s death no matter the cost. His team of bad guys include a well put together cast featuring performances from Jason Clarke and Jimmi Simpson.
Child actors can improve a movie, or really drag it down and in this case, Joey King raised the bar. She manages to simultaneously portray fear, courage and gumption when faced with homegrown terrorists. She made Emily Cale an enjoyable character: an annoying smarty pants that, much like her dad, turns into a hero.
At this point Channing Tatum could be considered box office catnip. Is there anything this guy doesn’t do? He dances, he acts, he wields weapons like a pro and even insists on doing all of his own stunts. Tatum delivers another rock solid performance (he could be the new go-to action hero if Hollywood’s looking for one).
What really sets this movie apart is the on-screen chemistry exhibited by Foxx and Tatum. They’re a surprisingly well matched action duo, with perfectly peppered comedic timing. It’s like watching two old friends on a fun filled high stakes adventure.
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Hysteria; The Dark Knight) plays a decent Secret Service officer, her character was mostly just one of the ensemble. I was surprised to see her so modestly dressed. Admittedly I haven’t seen a lot of her movies, but in the few that I have seen she’s often bra-less in a semi transparent top. I half expected to see that here too. It was refreshing to see her play a character that didn’t emphasize sex appeal.
Director Roland Emmerich (2012; 10,000 BC) delivers more action and cheesy one liners than I’d have thought possible for a 131 minute movie taking place primarily in one location. It’s a playful movie, if you take it seriously you’ll be sorely disappointed, however if you watch it for the tongue in cheek humor and edge of your seat action you’ll never want it to stop. There are some terrific car chases on the front of the White House lawn and many unforgettable scenes with rocket launchers. Not to mention just about every type of gun under the sun, this is a weapon saturated movie meant to entertain.
My biggest qualm with the movie came towards the end. After only narrowly avoiding a catastrophic nuclear war that probably would have commenced WWIII, the President receives word that various global leaders have agreed to his peace policy. There is no way that after being threatened and targeted leaders of the Middle East would suddenly agree to peaceful terms after hearing it was all one big misunderstanding. If anything, something like that would create more skepticism, not trust. I think that should have been put in the deleted scenes folder or left in the edit bay on the cutting room floor.
Ravishing 1080p high definition transfer from Sony. Cinematographer Anna Foerster weaves a variety of complex visuals to enhance the mood of the movie, and not a moment was lost thanks to the brilliance in clarity. Stunning color throughout, whether it was an overexposed action sequence or a darkly lit shadowed interior. Every nuanced expression and dirty smudge from the actors fight scenes could be seen in excruciating detail. Most of the special effects bloomed brilliantly on screen, the action is well lit and detailed oriented with hardly any of the usual CGI disappointments.
A thoughtfully accomplished sound track delivered in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Well crafted to explode with the action packed sequences, yet retain some qualities of natural ambience. Dialogue was clear and well mixed, from the interior echoes of voices in the White House to the exterior frenzied chaos. Ear shattering gun fire is delivered right into your home along with huge explosions (it makes for excellent surround sound). Overall well done musical underscore. Though I found including Beethoven’s Fifth was a little cheesy, it also added a lighthearted comedic note while emphasizing the dramatic point it was trying to make.
– A Dynamic Duo: cast and crew talk up the easy chemistry between Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum
-Men of Action: all about the stunts and the men who perform them (including Tatum).
-Meet the Insiders: a look at how the film was cast, who made what choices, etc.
-Ronald Emmerich Upping the Ante: cast and crew talk openly about the director and his big ideas.
-Gag Reel: laugh out loud on-set moments
-The Inside Story: goes through the steps of bringing the film to life and the challenges faced. Tatum was only available for 10 weeks which presented a challenge in terms of time.
-The Beast: a detailed look at the presidential limo and the process of creating and using it.
-The Full Arsenal: a thorough examination of the weapons used in the film from the 40,000lb tank to every imaginable gun. Everyday an average of 500 to 600 rounds were fired.
-Presidential Treatment: bringing the script to life given the challenges presented in recreating the White House.
-Crashing the Oval Office: detailed look at the production design that went into recreating the Oval Office and then crashing a car into it.
-Drowning the Beast: goes over the complex logistics of creating this scene on a stage and using an exact scale pool.
-Recreating the White House: a close examination of the White House sets, what details were known and which were guessed at.
-VFX Boundaries Down: discusses the use of an “in-cam” prototype to assist with visual effects while filming.
-Lights, Camera, Heart-Pumping Action: an up close and personal look at the impact of cinematographer, Anna Foerster.
-UltraViolet Digital copy
Aurora Snow Says:
A typical over the top action movie with plenty of testosterone-fueled gun fights and explosions. A well cast movie with some top notch performances. Approach this with the same sense of humor employed on screen and you won’t be disappointed, but if you’re looking for a serious action movie this isn’t it.
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