MRR Review: "White House Down"

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

MRR Review: "White House Down"

-- Rating: PG-13 (prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language, brief sexual image)
Length: 131 minutes
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Genre: Action/Drama/Thriller

Police officer John Cale (Channing Tatum) is an aspiring Secret Service agent who would like nothing more than to serve under President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx), not only to advance his career but to impress his young daughter Emily (Joey King), who is passionate about politics. Unfortunately, an old school chum named Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) conducts his interview and only remembers Cale as a lazy student who doesn't have the bravery or ambition needed to protect the president.

Cale doesn't get the job, but as a consolation to Emily, he goes on a tour of the White House in the hopes that she catches a glimpse of some of her political heroes. As they take the tour and the precocious Emily answers every single question the tour guide asks, trouble strikes. Explosions occur both within the White House and outside of it, and a small army of mercenaries take the place over. They gather up the tour group as hostages, intending to kill them and the president if they don't get what they want. What they want is control over the country's nuclear arsenal, which is something that could be catastrophic for the entire world. The ruthless leader, Stenz (Jason Clarke) is not afraid to get blood on his hands if he doesn't get what he wants. He is clearly a little bit crazy, and his craziness gets worse as Cale and President Sawyer team up to defeat his henchmen and try to save the hostages.

The film evolves into a sly game of cat and mouse, with Cale and the president barely keeping one step ahead of Stenz, whose emotional unraveling could be the ultimate endgame if he does manage to get his hands on those nuclear launch codes. The film has plenty of action, explosions, and fight scenes, though screenwriter James Vanderbilt is wise to temper the action with jokes and one-liners to give a little bit of levity to the explosive proceedings.

Director Roland Emmerich is definitely no stranger to summer popcorn flicks, having made such crowd pleasers as "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow," among many others. These films knew that combining action with a good, likable lead is a winning formula for a summer movie. With children out of school and harried parents trying to keep them entertained, the summer season is a ripe opportunity for a blockbuster film, and "White House Down" has all of the action, one-liners, and suspense needed for a blockbuster thanks to Emmerich's tried-and-true movie formula.

Tatum's career has really taken off over the past few years. He went from being a bit player better known for his looks and abs to a bona fide movie star who can carry a picture all on his own. He could easily shoulder the lion's share of the work on "White House Down," because his screen presence is spectacular and has steadily gotten better with each film he has made. However, Foxx, a former Oscar winner, is no slouch himself. His President Sawyer is brave under fire and never gives up his beliefs, even as his life is put in danger repeatedly. He and Tatum make a great team with plenty of charisma and chemistry to spare. It makes fans wonder why these two performers haven't been paired up before now, since they seem to effortlessly work together to make the film fun and exciting.

The film will inevitably be compared to "Olympus Has Fallen," the other recent film about a White House invasion. Both have the same basic premise but execute it in very different ways. "Olympus Has Fallen" had the President tied up most of the time to allow Gerard Butler to shine as the hero, whereas "White House Down" allows Foxx the chance to get in on the action, giving it shades of a buddy cop movie. In addition, "Olympus Has Fallen" was an R-rated film that wasn't above lots of cursing and the occasional bloody, somewhat gory execution, while "White House Down" keeps things a little more family friendly with a PG-13 rating. This is good news for action fans, since they will be able to watch "White House Down" without feeling like they've already seen it. In fact, it is one of the better summer popcorn movies of 2013, which is high praise in a crowded summer field that includes multiple superhero films.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5