White House Down
Have you ever thought to yourself ‘This is a nice film about the President Of The United States, but why isn’t he wearing trainers, kicking a Bad Man in the face and screaming “KEEP YO HANDS OFF MY JORDANS” as lots of paintings burn around him?’ White House Down. It’s what would happen if we got an upset The West Wing very drunk indeed.
Channing Tatum’s daughter loves The President. Not the real Channing Tatum, the Channing Tatum that’s pretending to be a character in White House Down. He has a name, it’s not John McCain, but it basically is. Anyway, she bloody loves The President and hates Channing McCain because he’s the kind of dad that forgets to go to her talent contest and calls her ‘champ’ and doesn’t let her listen to her iPod all the time. HE DIDN’T MEAN TO MISS YOUR TALENT CONTEST, GENTLY BUDDING TEEN GIRL. DAMMIT HE’S NOT BEEN THE SAME SINCE HE GOT BACK FROM THE WAR. What’s her talent? Flag waving. SHE LOVES THE PRESIDENT, OK?
Trying to win back her favour, Chan decides to go for a job interview at the White House (because that’s easy), to become part of the President’s security staff. He takes her along with him (because that’s easy), and catches a brief glimpse of the man himself, President Jamie Foxx, whose absolute refusal to play any kind of character at all in this puts Chan’s self-shrugging to shame, and is probably how he won the hearts of the voting public in the first place. Prez Foxx promptly struts into rooms and gardens and down bannisters, says things like “I’m the motha f*ckin leader of the FREE WORLD, BITCHEZ” and then earnestly promises to take all of the troops out of the Middle East, because context. Meanwhile, Maggie Gyllenhaal has gotten all of this completely wrong, and is genuinely attempting to do serious acting as Woman Security Woman In Charge of Providing Pathos. Poor thing.
Luckily, before we’ve had a chance to go “hang on, just… just what? What?”, the music turns from Star-Spangled-Baller to Ominous-Man-With-Mop – pertinent only because an ominous man with a mop is about to blow everything to shit. Why? Because the presidential gardens were made for screeching limos firing rocket-launchers out of them, that’s why.
White House Down’s enthusiastic refusal to give a shit about literally anything makes watching it both immensely satisfying and utterly baffling. Like seeing a toddler gleefully destroy a sandcastle he carefully made himself, Roland Emmerich’s greedy, sweaty eyes leave no historic Washington landmark unfucked. Machine guns, air-missiles, the pressing threat of nuclear warefare, Channing Tatum running around the White House with a FLAMING TORCH he presumably nabbed from whatever other nonsense film Emmerich is making at the same time, it’s all happening. It’s all happening, it’s all just sounds, it’s all one-liners and it’s all on fire.
Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum actually make a great team at the centre of the explosions, and they throw themselves into this borderline offensive nonsense, crashing into any number of priceless governmental heirlooms as they do so. The score doesn’t drop for a second (no mean feat with a running time of two hours and eleven minutes), so that even when the plot goes from lumpy to full sludge, the film keeps on its feet through adrenaline alone.
That’s not to say it gets away with everything. Any attempt at genuine emotion (we’re looking at you here Maggie) isn’t so much undermined as buried forever beneath the avalanche of noise, and though Chan’s weeping daughter does her best to steer away from energy-sapping, it still feels wrong to have any attempt at vulnerability tap the shoulder of this roaring, cheerful blood-monster.
Ultimately, White House Down’s dirty glee at being allowed to crash-bang-wallop in such a sacred place can’t help but have you setting any itchy questions aside in favour of dribbling, happy surrender. Sure you’ll have had your fill of the Land Of The Free long before the credits rolls, but when those stars and stripes are so brilliantly flammable, who minds a bit of top-notch waving?