By Will Houston (Leeds, England)
It’s clear to see Roland Emmerich is no stranger to action with films like Independence Day and Godzilla on his CV. His experience in this genre resonates throughout, with gunfights, explosions, a car chase and the President with a rocket launcher. Channing Tatum plays the Dad touring the White House turned presidential protector, while Jamie Foxx plays a President vying for world peace.
The plot of this film isn’t anything special. President Sawyer’s peace plan is beginning to take shape, much to the dismay of the arms industry; White House gets taken over etc, etc. Nothing too out of the ordinary here. However, it isn’t all bad; the plot does take a few twists and turns along the way, helping to keep us rooting for our delightful double act of Tatum and Foxx as John Cale and President James Sawyer respectively. Overall, the plot was fairly weak if I am to be critical, but as with many of Emmerich’s previous films, White House Down was never going to be something you watch for a convoluted plot. I went into this expecting cheesy action and that’s exactly what I got.
It’s obvious that Emmerich is in his element when the actions sequences are on screen. When armed terrorists take over the White House, action and chaos ensues, with plenty of gunfights and hostage taking after about half an hour of set up and getting to know the characters. Although many of the action sequences involved are filled with clichés, that doesn’t detract much from the entertainment value. The reason that helicopters being shot down and Channing Tatum diving over sofas to dodge bullets (yes, I’m referring to 21 Jump Street) are clichés, is because they work; they keep the audience entertained. It’s typical action.
But it’s not all cliché. Emmerich does innovate from typical action in parts, for example the car chase on the front lawn of the White House, where terrorists give the Presidential limo some rigorous testing, just to make sure it really is bulletproof. We also see a car taken out by the net of a tennis court in the same scene, not quite your typical action movie stuff on that one.
Something that I would like to see less of in this film is CGI. I’m not a fan of the overuse of CGI as it jeopardises the quality of the cinematography throughout most. Although, I understand that you can’t exactly blow up the White House for the sake of a more realistic shot; but this isn’t where my quarrel is with Emmerich and White House Down. My quarrel lies with the CGI helicopters particularly, as they are very poorly rendered and it was something I picked up on very early in the film, which left me wanting more from that department. But CGI does have its place, for example the early shots of Washington and a few explosions are a good addition and done well.
I’m going to make one more point on the acting before I conclude my first ever film review and let you get on with your life, if you made it this far. I personally thought that the acting in this film was satisfactory to say the least, as the main cast played their parts well as you would expect from big name starts such as Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. Tatum and Foxx play their parts strongly as an ass kicking Dad and a powerful, but loveable President. Channing Tatum is as cool as ever after turning into a Presidential bodyguard and Jamie Foxx not being quite as awesome as Django, but still rocks his Jordan’s better than most on-screen Presidents would.
Aside from these two, the standout performance for me was by Joey King, who played Emily Cale (daughter of Tatum’s John Cale). Her character of the brave young girl who stands up to terrorists was a fairly large one and she plays her part convincingly whenever on screen, not always the case with young actors. Another performance I enjoyed was Jimmi Simpson as Skip Tyler, because his eccentric hacker adds some more comic relief to the movie, helping to lighten the mood, particularly the scene where he puts the Pentagon on hold as if he’s working in customer service. A criticism about the role is that he didn’t get as much screen time as I would have liked.
Overall, if you know what to expect from this film, then you will enjoy yourself. It’s as simple as that. As I said earlier, if you watch it expecting cheesy action and a witty script in places, then that’s what you will get. However if you go in expecting an Oscar winning blockbuster, you will be disappointed. It is good, light-hearted action that I would recommend if you are in the mood for action, but not bothered about too much plot.