Director Roland Emmerich has had many financially successful films. He might even be called the twenty-first century "King of Disaster Epics". The man has reached some memorable highs with Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012. Yet, he has also seen a couple of severe lows. The first one is 2008’s 10,000 B.C. The second is easily 2013’s White House Down.
In the film, Channing Tatum plays John Cale, a United States Capitol police officer vying for a job in the Secret Service under President James Sawyer’s (Jamie Foxx) administration. When a team of mercenaries takes over the White House, Cale is suddenly positioned as the sole protector of the President Sawyer. Tatum, while not the most gifted actor, is certainly not a terrible one and the White House Down’s shortcomings have nothing to do with him. The same can be said for Foxx. Their biggest problem is the screenplay they’re working with, one that begins the movie on a promising note and then rapidly devolves into a string of absurdities.
Seeing the U.S. Capitol building explode, which jumpstarts the film, and the White House being destroyed later, does not deliver the same thrill it might have fifteen years ago, especially when the story is delivered in such an unintelligent and immature manner like this. The resulting feeling from the movie is a careless ugliness to it that, whether intentional or not by the filmmakers, is still a blatant, resounding element throughout. In a country that has seen a major attack that killed thousands in New York City, two wars overseas that have left, at this point, likely millions of people dead, after several heinous mass shootings in 2012, and the bombings in Boston in early 2013, cinematic violence and mayhem has lost much of its appeal. It isn’t as fun as it used to be, no matter how much comedy or lightheartedness is draped over it.
Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn’t seem too interested in calming themselves in that arena anytime soon. But, if White House Down’s poor box office numbers are any indication, it seems perchance audiences have grown weary of such things and are looking for entertainment elsewhere or it could simply be because the similarly-themed Olympus Has Fallen was released in March 2013, less than four months prior to White House Down’s theatrical debut.
Though not as horrid as 2008’s 10,000 B.C. and some attractive cinematography notwithstanding, White House Down still isn't any good. The movie is not popcorn fun. It’s glossy, spoon-fed chaos that with an absurd finale that is borderline unwatchable. It’s an extremely simplistic conclusion that is way too inappropriate, even for the clunky story this film is trying to tell or sell. When we’ve gotten to a point in our world reality where events a little like these might actually take place with a far worse outcome, of course, there’s nothing to get excited over when its sprawled across a movie screen. Indeed White House Down is just a movie, but even with its so-called patriotic attitude, it is one that definitely earns its shiny medal of expensive stupidity.