Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Joey King, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins, James Woods and Jason Clarke
Review Written By: Michael Dalton (Prime Minister)
White House Down is INCREDIBLY silly, clichéd and predictable but is also a ton of fun. If you’re looking for realism, naturalism or subtlety, then you would be advised to look elsewhere. If however you want a film in which Channing Tatum is driving the presidential limo around the White House lawn, whilst Jamie Foxx as leader of the free world, leans out of the window holding a rocket launcher, then look no further. What helps White House Down get away with some of its more irksome moments is the fact that there is a genuine sense of self-knowing fun throughout, with this film frequently playing its hand as a comedy as well as, if not instead as, an action film. Whilst at times the humour is rather forced and speaks to some tonal inconsistencies, its presence is necessary given the ridiculousness of what is happening on screen. Add this attitude to some great action set pieces, two charismatic central leads and a screenplay by James Vanderbilt that is surprisingly satisfyingly constructed and you have the necessary ingredients for a last blast of summer blockbuster fun.
The screenplay for this film is not one that is going to win any Oscars (Though reportedly did pocket the writer, James Vanderbilt, $3 million) though it is cleverer than many will give it credit for. Everything introduced in this film’s first act has some sort of pay-off as the film progresses. Some of these are sillier and more predictable than others, whilst some are genuine surprises. This film has a higher set-up, pay-off ratio than perhaps any other film this year. In a film that was perhaps less stupid in its basic premise, this amount of seeds growing into something would be lauded as an example of intelligent writing. Therefore while the dialogue and certain scenes may be eye rolling and brain numbing, the screenplay is surprisingly cleverly and satisfyingly constructed, more so than it had any right or need to be.
In regards to the direction, with Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow most notably, Roland Emmerich has a reputation for disaster and blowing stuff up (The film in fact has a fun little nod to the now classic scene in Independence Day in which the White House is destroyed). Emmerich has the skills and experience to pull off the visual effects and action sequences in this film, giving the movie a sense of scope beyond one house, no matter how big or famous this particular house may be. There are a couple of sequences, which rank among some of the more entertaining and spectacular action sequences of the year. Emmerich also seems to have learnt his lessons from the abysmal 2012, keeping the tone light and the pace fast.
In regards to the performances, Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx easily strike up an entertaining chemistry with one another. Both are clearly having fun in their roles and both have the charisma to carry this film and sell its material. Joey King manages to avoid living up to the stereotype of ‘the annoying child actor’ and I got a kick out of seeing one of my favourite little known and underrated actors, Jason Clarke playing the loud-mouthed, scenery chewing villain. The film has a solid ensemble with Richard Jenkins, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Lance Reddick (Daniels from The Wire) all present and making the most of their crucial supporting roles.
It also must be noted that politically, White House Down may be one of the more left-wing blockbusters to be released in a while. This film is a liberal’s fantasy, with Jamie Foxx as the black President who has proposed a peace treaty to pull all troops out the Middle East and essentially bring world peace. The film has a political earnestness though naivety to it that is not dissimilar to the policies of George Clooney’s candidate in The Ides of March. The film also has white men from within the United States as the villains, with this film taking aim at the military-industrial complex. Given the nature of the antagonists in Olympus Has Fallen it is possible to label that the right wing White House under siege movie and White House Down the left-wing White House under siege movie. This liberal nature to the film is a refreshing contrast to most summer action blockbusters, which seem to be an extension and proponent of the military-industrial complex with films like Battleship and Transformers essentially seeming like military recruitment advertisements. In no way is this film realistic or particularly revelatory politically, with its depiction of politics being very much in line with the escapism and silliness of the rest of the film, however it was still quite refreshing to see a film of this sort be one that garnered annoyance as opposed to appreciation from the likes of FOX. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why this film did so poorly at the box office in the States, making this critically and commercially one of the more underrated films of the summer and year.
Movie Parliament Rating: MAJORITY GOVERNMENT
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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