PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a U.S. Capitol Police officer assigned to Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins) after Cale saved Raphelson’s nephew’s life during a tour in Afghanistan. Cale is struggling to develop a better relationship with his daughter Emily (Joey King), who has a strong enthusiasm for politics. He hopes to impress her by getting a job with the Secret Service, but the interview is conducted by Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a former college acquaintance of his who believes that he is unqualified due to a lack of respect for authority. After lying to Emily about the outcome of the interview, she and Cale join a tour of the White House. At the same time, U.S. President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) proposes a controversial peace treaty between allied countries to remove military forces from the Middle East.
Meanwhile, a man disguised as a janitor detonates a bomb at the center of the United States Capitol, destroying the building’s dome. Raphelson - who was in the Capitol but is uninjured – and Finnerty are taken to a secure command center underneath the Pentagon while Vice President Alvin Hammond (Michael Murphy) is taken aboard Air Force One. The White House is put on lockdown separating Cale from Emily (who had left the tour group to use the restroom). Meanwhile, mercenaries led by Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke) start killing off most of the Secret Service and take the tour group hostage, but Cale manages to take a gun from a mercenary named Carl Killick (Kevin Rankin) and escapes to go and find his daughter. Following protocol, retiring Head of the Presidential Detail Martin Walker (James Woods) escorts President Sawyer and his detail to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. Once Sawyer gains access, Walker kills everyone else in Sawyer’s detail, revealing himself to be the leader of the attack; he wants revenge for the death of his son who was killed during a botched black ops mission. Cale, who fails to find Emily, kills a mercenary and takes his gun and radio. Using the radio, Cale locates and rescues the President.
Walker and Stenz bring in Skip Tyler (Jimmi Simpson) to hack into the defense system, but they still require Sawyer to activate the nuclear football. Emily, while hiding, records a video of the mercenaries and uploads it to YouTube before eventually being captured by Killick. Walker demands $400 million from the Federal Reserve as ransom for the hostages. Cale and Sawyer manage to get in contact with the Pentagon, and Finnerty tells Cale to get Sawyer out through a series of secret underground tunnels. Finnerty then uses Emily’s video to discover the mercenaries’ identities, discovering that they used to work for various government agencies and radical political groups. They are informed that Stenz, a former Special Forces operative, was disavowed and burned on mission, leading to his capture by the Taliban. They also discover that Walker has terminal cancer, suggesting his involvement to be a suicide mission and that the attack is not for ransom. Cale and Sawyer find the tunnel gate rigged with an explosive and are forced to escape in a presidential limousine. After a car chase/shootout with Stenz on the White House lawn, Cale and Sawyer are flipped into the White House pool after Cale gets distracted by the sight of Killick holding Emily at gunpoint. A gunfight erupts which results in an explosion that leaves Sawyer and Cale presumed dead. Hammond is then sworn in as President.
When Cale and Sawyer reveal they are still alive, they learn Hammond has approved an aerial incursion by Delta Force to take back the White House. Knowing the mercenaries have Javelin surface-to-air missiles, Cale tries but fails to stop the mercenaries from shooting down the helicopters. Cale gets into a fight with Stenz and ends up dropping his White House passes for himself and Emily while escaping. Having already learned of Emily from the video, Stenz, knowing that she is Cale’s daughter, takes her to Walker in the Oval Office. Meanwhile, Tyler finishes the upload to NORAD and launches a missile at Air Force One, killing everyone on board, including Hammond. Raphelson is then sworn in as President and, in a last ditch effort to end the crisis, orders an air strike on the White House. Finnerty informs Cale of Raphelson’s decision.
Walker tells Cale over the White House intercom to surrender Sawyer or he will kill Emily. Sawyer ultimately surrenders himself to save Emily, knowing Cale could still save them both if he was free. Holding the pair in the Oval Office, Walker reveals to Sawyer that his motive for the attack was to convey a message of American power. Because of Sawyer’s dislike of military force, as well as backing out of the mission that killed his son, Walker had grown to believe Sawyer was too weak to be President; by launching a nuclear attack on Iran, Walker had hoped to regain international respect for America and avenge his own personal loss. He asks for Sawyer to activate the nuclear football. Sawyer refuses, and tries to convince Walker that his son did not die in vain, and that the peace treaty was a form of victory. When Walker threatens to kill Emily again, the alarms and sprinklers are activated by Cale setting fire to the Lincoln Bedroom. In the chaos, Tyler tries to escape but encounters the tunnel gate bomb. When he tries to deactivate it, it detonates instead, killing him. Killick finds Cale and tries to kill him, but is ambushed by Donnie Smith, the White House tour guide (Nicolas Wright), who bludgeons Killick to death with a clock. After freeing the hostages and entrusting Donnie to get them out safely, Cale battles Stenz in a fistfight which spills into the press conference room. The fight ends when Cale ultimately kills Stenz with a grenade belt. Using the explosion to catch him off guard, Sawyer attacks a distracted Walker, but Walker gains the upper hand and forces Sawyer to activate the football before apparently shooting him dead. Using updated launch codes from an anonymous source, Walker targets various cities in Iran, but before he can initiate the launch, Cale smashes through the wall of the Oval Office with a presidential SUV, and kills Walker with the SUV’s minigun. Cale warns Emily of the air strike, and she takes a presidential flag and waves it on the front lawn, prompting the pilots to call off the attack. Meanwhile, Sawyer reveals himself to be alive since the bullet that hit him hit a pocket watch his wife (Garcelle Beauvais) had given him. Finnerty calls them to reveal that the mercenaries were not hired by Walker, and that there is another person behind the attack. Cale realizes who it is and asks Sawyer for his help in exposing the person.
Later, Finnerty arrives at the White House with Raphelson. When Cale tells them Sawyer was killed, Raphelson then orders troops to be placed back into the Middle East, which would go against Sawyer’s peace treaty. Cale then reveals Raphelson had conspired with Walker to orchestrate the attack because of Raphelson’s opposition to Sawyer’s treaty and then proves it by having Finnerty call the call-back number on Walker’s pager, which was the source of the updated launch codes. Sawyer arrives and has Raphelson taken into custody, treating his taking of the Presidency as a coup d’état. Sawyer then officially offers Cale a job in the Secret Service and takes him and Emily on an aerial tour of Washington, D.C. on his way to the hospital. Realizing an increased need for peace due to the days events, Russia, Iran, China, and other Middle Eastern and Asian countries agree to sign Sawyer’s peace treaty.
The White House just can’t seem to catch a break this year. White House Down is the second film that I’ve seen involving a plot to take over/destroy 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. There is a debate about which film is better, this or Olympus has Fallen, which I will weigh in on a bit later, but first, let’s get on to the review, shall we?
What is this about?
When a paramilitary group engineers a violent takeover of the White House, the president must try to hide from the attackers until he can be rescued. Caught up in the chaos, Secret Service agent John Cale ends up becoming his sole protection.
What did I like?
Commentary. Say what you will, regardless of your political beliefs/opinions, but you can’t help but notice how Jamie Foxx is playing the president in a manner similar to Obama. I’m not up on foreign policies and whatnot, but I believe there are similarities there, as well. I found this all to be some sort of commentary on what this filmmaker thinks of the political system that is in place right now, or it could just be coincidence/done for comedic effect.
Charming potato. I can’t remember what the first film I saw Channing Tatum in was. I think it might have been She’s the Man, but I could be wrong. Since those days, his star has been steadily rising and his acting skills have been improving. He doesn’t have that urban white boy vibe anymore, though he does slip into it now and then. This is one of his most mature roles as he plays a father who just wants to do right by his daughter and do everything he can to keep her safe, the president just happens to be in the way, for lack of a better term.
Action and chemistry. Believe it or not, the chemistry between Foxx and Tatum is pretty good, especially for two guys that are from different walks of life. They come together in the most unfortunate of circumstances and form a pretty close bond that seems to go on and be a long-standing relationship. For the lead characters, this is a must. On another note, the action in this film is what you would expect when one man is trying to protect the White House and save his daughter, badass! Nothing more needs be said about it than that.
What didn’t I like?
Motives. So, the head of the President’s detail masterminds a plot, but the thing is we’re not really sure what his plot is. Does he want to destroy the White House? Kill the president? Start World War III? Also, what are his motives? Apparently, is has something to do with his son getting killed in the Iraq war, but it is never implicitly said what it is that is driving him to do this. Even the guy that is pulling his strings doesn’t seem to have a clear motive, other than greed.
Mercenaries. This group of mercenaries is about as ragtag as they come. With the exception of the lead guy, they seem to be used more for comic relief than anything else. I don’t have a problem with this at all, but I do have an issue with the “forgotten” mercenary, who was the computer hacker. Sure, the guys with the guns are important and all, but this guy literally was locked in a room and could destroy the world with the stroke of a button, if he so chose to, and yet they didn’t bother him at all. I think he may have even got away in the end, or at least isn’t found out by Tatum.
Reunited. I was glad to see that Jamie Foxx was reunited (and married) Garcelle Beauvais, his costar from The Jamie Foxx Show. For many seasons on the show, he would be rejected by her. However, it made no sense to me that if her husband’s life was in danger, she wasn’t calling 24-7 finding out what was going on or coming up to the bunker to see get some info. What kind of wife is she?!?
With the two White House under siege films that were released this year, White House Down was the weaker of the two. Having said that, it did have the better story than Olympus has Fallen, but I felt the latter had the better action and was more of an enjoyable film. If you’re in the mood for this type of film, though, you can’t really go wrong with either. Focusing on this one, though, nothing makes this film memorable. I wasn’t expecting this film to blow me away, but I did think that something would capture my imagination, and that just didn’t happen. Still, I would recommend this, as action films that are worth seeing are few and far between. Give it a shot sometime!
3 3/4 out of 5 stars