Published Jun 27, 2013A proper summer action blockbuster doesn't feebly traipse across the screen in hopes someone might notice it. Like White House Down, it's big, brash and even a little dumb in the way it demands attention via tense scenes of yelling, gunfire and explosions. In Roland Emmerich's best such effort since Independence Day, he can count among his impressive arsenal the versatile Channing Tatum, in a role that should cement his status as a bona fide action star.
Tatum is John Cale, a divorced American soldier now providing security in Washington DC for the Speaker of the House (Richard Jenkins), with ambitions of joining the Secret Service to protect President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx, borrowing some of Obama's mannerisms and his nicotine habit). On a trip to the White House with daughter Emily (Joey King) to interview for a position with Secret Service agent Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and take a tour, all hell breaks loose.
In a twist that will surprise few, the ensuing hostage situation turns out to have been masterminded by the Head of the Secret Service, Walker (James Woods), whose son was killed in a Middle East conflict that's now being abandoned by President Sawyer. With Walker demanding 400 million dollars, it's the tandem of Cale and Sawyer, with Emily's ingenuity, which remains the best hope of sabotaging his plans from within.
In addition to an abundance of fireworks and pyrotechnics, there's also a glut of secondary story threads found both inside and outside the White House. Embedded amongst these is some great comic relief from the likes of Nicolas Wright, as an extremely dedicated tour guide, and Jimmi Simpson, as an offbeat hacker.
Though, at times, there's entirely too much going on, the screenplay deserves credit for sufficiently investing some weight in the central relationship between father and daughter. As Foxx is relegated to the sidekick role, for the most part, Tatum and King are able to slip in some convincing emotional moments between the disposing of bad guys.
Not without its hokey parts and with a few too many limp payoffs to plot points that were set up earlier, it can at least be said that White House Down is rarely boring. Its greatest accomplishment amidst all of the fiery carnage is how it manages to overcome the limitations of confining the action to one building by incorporating a chase scene that sees speeding cars circling the fountain on the White House lawn. (Sony)