At the Movies: White House Down

“White House Down” is one of the most cliché action movies ever made. If while watching it you are not consistently five steps ahead of the characters on screen, then I can only assume you’ve never watched an action movie.

Which is not to say it’s a terrible movie. The lead actors are charming, the villains are suitably vile, the action bits are thrilling, things blow up really cool. But charismatic talent and impressive special effects can’t make up for a story that is cobbled together from every other action movie since “Die Hard.”

whote_house_down_posterChanning Tatum stars as John Cale (because the name John McClane had already been used), a security guard for Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins) who wants to move up to Secret Service detail.

John takes his daughter Emily (Joey King) with him on the job interview so she can see the White House. It may (but probably won’t) surprise you to know that Emily is mad at dad because he doesn’t spend enough time with her.

John doesn’t get the job because of his track record of being a loose cannon. Oh, if only there were some way he could prove his worth to President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) and Secret Service agent Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Did I mention Carol happens to be an old friend of John’s?

Turns out it’s John’s lucky day because mercenaries have just set off a bomb at the Capitol building and taken over the White House.

Will John be able to single-handedly save the president and prove to Carol he’s not the screw-up she thinks? Will John and the president team up to take down the bad guys? Who could possibly be running this operation? Could it be someone we met earlier in the film who seems like such a nice guy? Will John’s daughter be used against him when — I mean if — the bad guys make the connection? Will someone call in an air strike and will it be stopped in time? Will the really psycho bad guy meet a satisfyingly painful end? When it looks like it’s all over, will there be a last-minute twist implicating someone who we thought was a good guy?

If you’re uncertain how to answer any of the above questions, I can only assume you only watch romantic comedies. “White House Down” is carefully crafted to hit all the right notes to be a crowd-pleasing popcorn thriller. And to be honest it is pretty effective on that score.

“White House Down” is directed by Roland Emmerich, who gave us similar fare like “Independence Day” “The Day After Tomorrow” and “2012.” If you liked those movies you’ll probably like this. Tatum makes a decent action hero and Foxx is fun to watch as well. The action sequences get more and more outrageous as the movie progresses. And hey, that’s what summer movies seem to be all about anymore.


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