Susan Granger's review of 'White House Down'
Published 9:37 am, Sunday, July 7, 2013
It's deja vu all over again in this second film of the season in which terrorists invade the White House, leaving an aspiring Secret Service agent to save the day. The concept is familiar from "Olympus Has Fallen," but this time the characters at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. are far more fully developed and interesting. There's humor and heart.
Ex-Marine-turned-Capitol policeman John Cale (Channing Tatum) has been turned down for his dream job of serving on the president's Secret Service detail. But on a White House tour with his precocious, preteen daughter Emily (Joey King), armed militants take over, so it's up to underestimated Officer Cale save President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx), Emily and the country.
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What makes this different is the way screenwriter James Vanderbilt ("The Amazing Spider Man," "Zodiac") and director Roland Emmerich cultivate the relationship between Cale and Sawyer. Foxx ("Django Unchained") obviously models his POTUS on the current incumbent, giving Tatum ("G.I. Joe") most of the derring-do. Plus, there are memorable supporting turns from Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins, Jason Clarke and James Woods.
In the 17 years since Roland Emmerich blew up the White House in "Independence Day," much has changed -- like no more filming in Washington, D.C. Instead, the iconic, 222-year-old executive mansion, where the president lives and works, was meticulously re-created in Montreal by production designer Kirk Petruccelli ("The Incredible Hulk," "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider"), including its many secret tunnels and the bulletproof presidential limo.
On a deeper psychological level, after 9/11, depicting graphic destruction of our treasured national monuments exploits Americans' terrorism paranoia and tweaks a growing suspicion of defense contractors and the military/industrial complex. But it's these CGI scenes of spectacular demolition that sell action-adventures overseas.
Comparisons between Tatum and Bruce Willis' wisecracking "Die Hard" character are obvious; they share the same first name and both wear dirty, sleeveless T-shirts.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "White House Down" is an implausible but action-packed, escapist 8. Emmerich's next is "Independence Day 2," scheduled to open July 3.