out of Five
Running time: 131
The very definition of big dumb fun, White House Down is a hugely enjoyable thriller that gets everything right that the similarly plotted Olympus Has Fallen got wrong, thanks to a witty script, a perfectly pitched directorial tone, thrilling set pieces and superb performances from Tatum and Foxx.
What's it all about?
Directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012), White House Down stars Channing Tatum as divorced security guard John Cale, who takes his politically savvy 11 year old daughter Emily (Joey King) on a tour of the White House when he visits for a job interview. With excruciatingly bad timing, John and Emily get separated on the tour just as heavily-armed US-based terrorists attack the White House, under the leadership of newly retired security chief Walker (James Woods).
While attempting to get back to his daughter, John manages to rescue President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) and the pair attempt to turn the tables on the terrorists while trying to contact security agent Carol (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in the Pentagon. Meanwhile, Emily puts her own spanner in the works by posting video clips of the terrorists to Twitter and YouTube, which quickly make it onto the news and end up putting her in danger.
Tatum and Foxx make an appealing double act, sparking off each other in winning fashion and reacting to their situation in believable ways that suggest both of their characters have watched Die Hard multiple times. King is equally good as Emily (her first scene with Foxx is priceless) and there's enjoyable support from James Woods, Richard Jenkins (as Speaker Raphelson), Jason Clarke (as the lead terrorist) and Jimmi Simpson as the tech-savvy hacker-slash-terrorist charged with shutting down the White House's security systems.
Director Roland Emmerich knows a thing or two about action set-pieces (with a side order of explosions) and he doesn't disappoint here, pulling off one ridiculously entertaining sequence after another; he even manages to include a hilarious car chase sequence with John and the terrorists driving round in circles on the White House lawn.
Essentially, White House Down is the film that the similarly-plotted Olympus Has Fallen should have been. The key difference between the two (apart from the fact that White House Down boasts a lead who actually has charisma) is that Emmerich gets the tone exactly right throughout; the humour is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny and there's a warmth and a likeability to these characters that was entirely missing from the earlier movie. Similarly, the film doesn't allow itself to get bogged down in either flag-waving jingoism or sickly sentimentality, playing it admirably straight while still delivering the odd tongue-in-cheek moment.
White House Down is enormous fun, thanks to a sharply written script, exciting action sequences, a satisfying explosion count and terrific performances from a talented cast. Perfect Friday night entertainment.
White House Down (12A)