Mercs take over Pennsylvania Avenue again in White House Down

Daniel Woodhouse

We’re not even half way through 2013 and the White House has been bombed in two movies this year.

White House Down’s story involves President James Sawyer (an African American president) attempting to pass a treaty that would allow for the removal of all American forces from the Middle East. While Sawyer and his staff are at the White House for the signing, a group of paramilitary gunmen, led by an ex-Delta force officer and a traitorous Secret Service, attack the White House. With most of the Secret Service dead and the White House under the mercenaries’ control, it’s up to John Cale, a Capitol police officer, and President Sawyer to uncover what the mercs are planning.

White House Down is a fun summer action flick with some great visual effects.
White House Down is a fun summer action flick with some great visual effects.

Director Roland Emmerich is known for destroying world landmarks, particularly American ones. It’s ironic that a man who can blow up the U.S. Capitol building, large sections of the White House and even Air Force One, can make what would normally be tragic imagery into such entertaining material. As usual, he makes excellent use of special effects to create exhilarating action set pieces. This time around, Emmerich used more practical effects to give the film a sense of realism, rather than his typical 100 percent high budget CGI.

Writer James Vanderbilt does a good job creating a semi-believable script for a Roland Emmerich film, and toning down the hammy characters and cliched dialogue that often plagues Emmerich’s films. The characters are deeper and have believable personalities, and the dialogue is smart and funny. At the same time, there are corny, melodramatic moments, like a paramilitary guy shooting a portrait of George Washington, or a black hawk helicopter crashing and knocking the American flag off the White House.

Magic Mike’s Channing Tatum does well as police officer John Cale, though it feels like he’s channeling Bruce Willis from Die Hard. Similarly, Jamie Foxx does a good job as President Sawyer, a character that’s a cross between the president from Air Force One and Barack Obama. As for the rest the cast they’re all pretty forgettable, and veterans like Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lance Reddick and James Woods give stock performances.

All in all, White House Down is a fun little popcorn action flick that’s a bit cheesy, but worth watching if you’ve got nothing else to do on a Friday night.


3 out 5 stars