Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Film Review: White House Down (2013)

Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer: James Vanderbilt
Stars: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx and Maggie Gyllenhaal

This review contains spoilers

White House Down ends with a 13 year old girl waving a flag on the White House lawn, which is enough to convince three fighter jets to disobey DIRECT ORDERS from the Commander In Chief and leader of the free world. They have no other evidence to suggest the terrorist threat is over and the hostages are free. Not one other piece of intel.

Just an insignificant girl waving a flag.

This cataclysmically awful climax sums up the movie entirely; it is atrocious as an action film, as a ‘popcorn blockbuster’ and is just yet another nail in the coffin of the action movie genre. Moreover, it is so bad it makes this year’s other White House movie, Olympus Has Fallen, look like an action classic and that film was average at its very best.

Where to begin in describing the film’s issues requires more effort than anyone in this production appears to have put in, but James Vanderbilt’s screenplay is the most surely the most culpable. The opening 20 minutes of ‘character development’ and plot setup is some of the most boring, lifeless, and clumsily constructed writing you may ever see in a film of this size and scope; the relationship between father/hero (played by charisma vacuum Channing Tatum) and daughter is clich├ęd to point of parody, the President comes across as an ‘average likable guy’ and shows absolutely no leadership characteristics or sense of power, and the terrorists/bad guys are recognisable only by their tattoos and muscles so they must be bad, right?

The film, however, loses all credibility in this opening act with the writing of the daughter. We’re asked to believe this girl has had an interest in US politics since she was three years old and now the precocious now-it-all knows the same details of the White House as the tour guide which she is conveniently now part of. She has her own YouTube channel devoted to US Politics and of course, she gets an INTERVIEW WITH THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA who talks to her like he’s some teenage pop star caught on the street coming out of his hotel on his way to a limo. If this wasn’t enough, as the film moves into the second act she is separated from the other hostages and is seen taking videos of the terrorists and uploading them to the internet and (of course) her footage is used to identify the terrorists, and (of course) all the networks identify her and show her picture on national TV, because that isn’t seen as painting a target on her head to James Vanderbilt, but rather it just makes the terrorists a little frustrated.

Rather than soiling herself and hiding like a pre-teen girl would (I know I would and I’m a 30 year old man) this girl ends up being the saviour of the day by waving a flag to show jets, which she didn’t know where there, that all is well. As the film ends, network TV broadcasting all over the world want to interview her about the number of hits her footage has had whilst the symbol of American power and democracy is ravaged and burning in the background. Furthermore, she then is allowed on board the President’s helicopter which flies off into the distance, because there’s not much more investigation, protocol to follow, or clean up left after the White House has been attacked and World War III has been averted, literally, only minutes before. Yeah, that’s what would probably happen.

Aside from every scene featuring the daughter, the film still has plenty of issues. The President is assumed dead without any hard evidence; the leader of White House security team for 15 years wants to launch a nuclear attack on several countries simultaneously because his son, a serving soldier in the US Army, was killed and this is his sole reason; whilst the President’s armoured car is being chased around the White House lawn, nothing is done to help from the Army situated just metres away; three Black Hawk helicopters are deployed and destroyed within five minutes of screen time for no reason than to show three explosions; the dome of the Capital Building is blown up for no reason whatsoever and aids the terrorists plans in no way other than needlessly drawing attention to their operation; Air Force One apparently has zero defence mechanisms; a $6 million tank can be obliterated by a RPG; a tour guide will ask a terrorist to take care of priceless artefacts; the same tour guide will turn into a cold blooded killer and use a blunt instrument to bludgeon an man to death... The list of nonsense is seemingly endless because the film never once earns the suspension of disbelief films such as this so desperately need to be a success. The great action films are just as silly, but they do not suppose the audience is even sillier and give them so credit for going along for the ride. Nothing ever feels at stake in the film, even though an unthinkable attack is taking place and the world is supposed to be on the brink of nuclear war; the setting of the White House is never used to the full advantage it should have, but is just an iconic location to destroy, as seen in other films from the same director.

Stop thinking for yourself verdict: The film would get credit for being a straight up guns ‘n’ explosions action flick if the action were exciting or even original, but is simply is neither. White House Down is merely another example of the ‘leave your brain at the door’ ‘dumb fun’ mentality of modern blockbuster filmmaking which is just dumb and never fun.

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