White House Down
dir Roland Emmerich
scr James Vanderbilt
prd Roland Emmerich, Brad Fischer, Larry J Franco, Laeta Kalogridis, Harald Kloser, James Vanderbilt
with Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Richard Jenkins, James Woods, Joey King, Jason Clarke, Jimmi Simpson, Nicolas Wright, Rachelle Lefevre, Michael Murphy, Lance Reddick
release US 28.Jun.13, UK 6.Sep.13
13/US Columbia 2h11
White House Down
America's last hope: Foxx and Tatum

gyllenhaal jenkins woods
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
White House Down Roland Emmerich lends his gleefully destructive filmmaking approach to the apparently fashionable President-in-peril genre (see also the more po-faced Olympus Has Fallen). This is a ludicrously contrived thriller that's also a guilty pleasure because the actors refuse to take things seriously. And the mayhem is on a far grander scale than was strictly necessary.

To buy impress his politically savvy estranged 11-year-old daughter Emily (King), John (Tatum) takes her along when he visits the White House for a job interview with the secret service. Just as they get separated while taking a tour, home-grown terrorists led by disgruntled security chief Walker (Woods) attack. While looking for Emily, John rescues President Sawyer (Foxx) and sets out to neutralise the baddies. Meanwhile Emily is sneaking video clips of the villains to YouTube. And at the Pentagon, security agent Carol (Gyllenhaal) is helping Speaker Raphelson (Jenkins) keep the nation from collapse.

The script is packed with gratuitous details, quirky characters and ironic one-liners that keep us smiling as the chaos escalates. The attackers are an eclectic group with a variety of demands (cash, power, levelling the Middle East), while the main gunman (Clarke) is in a personal grudge-match with John for no real reason beyond setting up a couple of wildly improbable fistfights in the final act.

Drawing on Emmerich's playfully somber tone, the actors play it relatively straight then pepper each scene with jagged punchlines and exasperated sighs. At the centre, Tatum and Foxx are a likeable double-act, while King steals the movie as the plucky young hero. It also helps to have gravitas-leaden support from the likes of Woods, Gyllenhaal and Jenkins. Plus nutty side roles for Simpson (as an evil hacker) or Wright (as a zealous tour guide).

Through it all, Emmerich maintains the same overwrought production values that made 2012 such idiotic good fun. The film is packed with dodgy digital effects work, corny sentimentality and more Americana than you imagined could be wedged into 131 zippy, action-packed minutes. He even manages to include a lavishly insane car chase without leaving the White House grounds. Yes, it's terrible. But it's a lot more fun than it has any right to be.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 24.Jul.13

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