Someone needs to write Bruce Willis a thank you for laying the groundwork in 1988 for the terrorist/ hostage movie genre. If it weren’t for his lone wolf character, John McClane, we wouldn’t have his never ending sequels to Die Hard or movies such as White House Down. He had set a pretty high standard in the industry by placing an average joe in an above average hostage rescue situation. Currently we have Channing Tatum and director Roland Emmerich (director of Independence Day, Godzilla) teaming up to either rip you off or pay homage to his work.
Not unlike the 1988 movie Die Hard, the 2013 White House Down takes our hero and places him in unbelievable situations where he kills several bad guys, survives multiple explosions and saves the day with no recourse to his actions. And, why not? It’s a summer action flick, don’t take it too serious.
Our hero is divorcee John Cale (played by Tatum), a Capitol Policeman, whose duty is to escort the Speaker of the House, Eli Raphelson (played by Richard Jenkins) and to chase squirrels from the Speaker’s bird feeder. Cale has a pretty bland existence but today is a big day for him. He gets an interview with the Secret Service, a dream job of Cale’s. He picks up his 11 year old daughter on his way to the interview so she can see the White House up close.
Meanwhile, the story is being set with President Sawyer (Played by Jamie Foxx), who is returning from the G8 peace summit. He envisions a world with peace in the Middle East, therefore eliminating the need for a large American defense contract.
Cale bombs his job interview and takes his daughter, Emily (played by Joey King), who is a political and White House junkie on a tour with a very humorous tour guide. We learn a lot about the White House’s history while on this tour. Every detail that we learn comes into play later on in the film.
It doesn’t take long before the terrorists show up on the scene. After exploding the Capitol’s rotunda. They make their way to the White House to capture the President. You would think that would be a difficult task because the Secret Service is there to protect the Commander in Chief. However, the terrorists have an inside track, they are working with the head of the Secret Service, Martin Walker (played by James Woods). He lets them into the White House with no real issue, only a very high body count.
Once the terrorists are in the White House it is up to Cale to not only save the President but also his own daughter. He is up against the stereotypical terrorist organization – they have a macho ex-military man, a computer hacker, and a psycho. There must be a store out there that sells these starter packages for building your own terrorist cell.
The movie takes a turn into the buddy/ cop genre quickly when Cale and Sawyer meet. They do work well off one another with Tatum’s bullet dodging sequences and Foxx’s reserved diplomat turned suburban gangsta personality.
All the while there is a back story developing in a bunker not far from the White House explaining the terrorists actions. We see Hollywood’s idea of what could possibly happen if the President did die and who would take over as the leader of the free world. It turns out that it is pretty easy for the Vice President to become President, they don’t even need a proof of death, if they see something blow up on TV that’s all the proof they need. We are just fortunate that we have President that can survive explosions several times over.
Should you see this movie? Well, have you seen “Die Hard?” The similarities were too much after a while. Here’s a short list – single dad vs terrorists, fighting terrorists shoe less, pulling glass out of the body, an armored vehicle attacking a building then being blown up, the hero being mistaken for a terrorist when fighting on a rooftop, helicopters coming in low over the city to blow up the terrorists, computer hacker easily breaking into an unbreakable computer system, and our hero stripping down to his undershirt to fight the bad guys.
All that aside, the movie is still a fun Summer action flick with plenty of cool one liners. If you have not seen the aforementioned film, a lot of this might seem relatively new to you. An additional note – for a PG-13 rating the body count is pretty high.