White House Down is just a plain old jingoistic destruction movie that moves along at a fun pace. It’s chock full of cheesy one-liners, a recognisable cast, and an ending you see coming from more than two hours off. The film is exactly what audiences expect from the guy who directed Independence Day.
Director Roland Emmerich does nothing groundbreaking in terms of story, just lots of backstabbing and faux-political 'intrigue' that gives just enough justification for the events that transpire in the film.
The story takes place in present-day Washington DC as police officer John Cale (the omnipresent Channing Tatum) is assigned to protect the Speaker of the House. In order to impress his teenage daughter, played by Joey King, Cale applies for a position in the Secret Service detail that protects the president. He fails to get the job though and, not too long after, the duo decide to tour the White House.
During the tour though, bombs go off as armed mercenaries begin a search for President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Cale is in the thick of the action as he slips away to try and save the president, his daughter, and himself while the audience begins to learn who is betraying who in this ABC thriller.
Emmerich is not known for developing his characters, but to be fair he spends a good chunk of the beginning laying the groundwork for what's to come. Surprisingly, the film is also much more humorous than the trailer would make audiences believe, some of it placed in awkward moments.
Compared with his best known film (of which they may soon be a sequel again starring Will Smith, see briefs), the special effects here are inexplicably not up to par. The action sequences, though well edited, are far from stellar: coming across as cartoonish, video game-like explosions that drag the film down.
The past year has been good to leading man Tatum though (with several box office hits) who plays a nice double act with Foxx; though, endearing as it is to see the president who choose to wear sneakers with his suit, audiences don't need to hear a sly joke about them as he kicks someone in the face.
In sum, while the stars and stripes appeal for patriotic Americans is clear (I should reveal I am one), non-US citizens probably won’t feel the need to see White House Down, particularly when this film has essentially already been done earlier this year, with Gerard Butler vehicle Olympus Has Fallen.
For myself however, U-S-A! U-S-A!