Director: Roland Emmerich
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Channing Tatum, James Woods, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins and Jason Clarke
Release Date: September 7th
Roland Emmerich is an evil genius who hates America. Born and bred in Stuggart, he’s spent decades making a living laying waste to American iconography with a variety of tools — aliens, Kaijus, weather and Mayan calendars — and selling it back to salivating US audiences who love nothing more than their very way of life being challenged. America inevitably always wins but Roland doesn’t half revel in the destruction, whether it’s an ion cannon decimation on 1600 Pennsylvania avenue or New York buckling under the strain of Puff Daddy sampling Led Zeppelin.
James Foxx is the president of the United States of America. (Let that settle in for a moment.) There are only two things he loves more than the red, white and blue blowing in the summer’s cool breeze: extremely low flyovers of the Lincoln Memorial and donning his Nike Air Jordans when there’s real business to attend to. An attack on the White House by a gang of mercenaries (led by an underserviced Jason Clarke) threatens both his home and country, leading him to team up with a Capitol Hill cop (Tatum) who flunked the Secret Service exam who’s taking a tour with his annoying daughter — signified here by her love of video blogs.
White House Down is about four months too late. Olympus Has Fallen has already tread on these exact grounds and was twice the fun with half the budget. In that film, Antoine Fuqua didn’t spend long setting the table because Gerard Butler was too busy stabbing it and swearing incoherently. Here, Emmerich wastes a good forty minutes before a solitary bullet is even fired. In its place, he laps on layers of unwanted saccharine and unnecessary exposition when all anyone wants is big booms, fisticuffs and the American way.
It’s another movie in a long, long line of Die Hard in a… series and is by far the most unashamed in its homage — or just shameless aping, it’s hard to tell — of John McClane. Cyber terrorists sit alone in basements listening to classical music and fiddling with interfaces, speeches talk about “having a guy in there, a cop” and white vests get absolutely filthy. And like the many that came before it, it’s not much fun. That lightning in a bottle can’t be recreated. Sure, the presidential limo does doughnuts on the White House lawn while POTUS hangs out the window with a rocket launcher, but where’s our Hans, bubby?
Tatum and Foxx no doubt have charisma, only it fails to manifest when they’re together — when Butler and Aaron Eckhart have more chemistry than you, there’s probably something up. The rest of the strong cast is ushered into a clandestine crisis suite where everyone’s title is never firmly established and the chain of command resembles an intricate labyrinth. On the plus side, James Woods is having fun, his anachronistic secret service agent who fights terror only with his razor sharp haircut and pager is a welcome highlight.
Emmerich may well be responsible for the almost pornographic city vaporisation that now floods all major blockbusters — up to and including using Metropolis as the backdrop for the world’s most expensive and longest man-pushes-another-man-into-a-building contest. He’ll probably see this as a scaled down movie but he can’t help falling back on his predictable and, at this point, tired tropes — when in doubt, explosions. Buy hey, just think of those explosions as fireworks, and those fireworks are celebrating the end of blockbuster season for the year. Feels good, don’t it?