WHITE HOUSE DOWN
Review by Gordon Justesen
Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins,
Director: Roland Emmerich
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 131 Minutes
Release Date: November 5, 2013
“Can you not hit me in the head with a rocket when I’m trying to drive?”
It’s been almost a decade since Roland Emmerich has made a straight up action movie, the last one being 1992’s Universal Soldier. And yet how ironic that for his return to the action genre, he is helming a Die Hard-type movie set in the one building he’s been destroying in nearly every movie he’s made in the time since. The White House has bitten the dust in Emmerich’s Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012, but in White House Down…well, the same thing kinda happens again.
But in returning to his favorite destruction zone of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Emmerich has managed to make not only his best movie in quite some time, but the best action movie of 2013 thus far…not to mention the best Die Hard in the White House release of 2013. As much I enjoyed Olympus Has Fallen, which came first this year, White House Down ends up being the better of the two due to a much welcome dose of humor and all around better execution of the material. As far as pure popcorn movies go, this is at a can’t beat level!
And the movie also has a surprising good bit of character development before the action kicks in. Our hero this time around is John Cale (Channing Tatum), a Capitol building policeman who works security for the Speaker of the House (Richard Jenkins). Cale wants nothing more than to work Secret Service detail for President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) for two reasons: he considers it a serious honor, and it will definitely earn the respect of his young daughter Emily (Joey King), who is one big political junkie for an 11 year old.
It just so happens that while Cale is interviewing for that very job, and his daughter is on a tour of the White House…wouldn’t ya know it…terrorists seize control! And after he’s separated from his daughter and one guard too many get taken down by gunfire, Cale springs into action to save the President from harm. What happens from this point on maybe a Die Hard clone, but a damn well executed one.
And the villains this time around happen to come from within The White House itself. The very head of the Secret Service, Walker (James Woods), orchestrates the takeover by having a team of deadly American mercs hold the building captive. Not pleased with the President’s proposed peace treaty, Walker threatens the launch of nuclear missiles at the Middle East has a means of revenge for losing his son in Afghanistan.
The best aspect of White House Down is the chemistry that ignites once Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx pair up on screen. Once Cale is at the President’s defense, we basically get some classic buddy cop-like banter between the two. And the extravagant action sequences that occupy the last half of the movie are also fueled by some unexpectedly hilarious moments, especially when the President mishandles a rocket launcher during a car chase right on the White House lawn (which has to be seen to be believed).
And while I’m going on record as saying that this is by far the best action movie to come out this year, I’ll also admit to you that the movie is pretty brainless. For starters, it makes it seem that anyone can take control of the White House judging by how easily the terrorists do it here. There is also some foreshadowing that will make you laugh once you connect a brave final act by Cale’s daughter to what she mentions she did at a talent show earlier in the movie. And there’s also revelation at the end of a traitor that feels like it was tacked on at the last minute and done in the style of Scooby Doo. But you know what; I ate up every bit of it!
White House Down is the very definition of what a big, loud, dumb fun popcorn escapist movie should be. And while he hasn’t always been successful at pulling this sort of thing off, Roland Emmerich demonstrates here that when done right, he’s almost perfect with this sort of mindless material. All I can say is strap in, lock n load and enjoy!
Sony’s handling of this Blu-ray presentation is nothing short of, well, explosive! This movie definitely carries a big scale look to it in frame after frame, and the 1080p enhances it in pure glorious form. Emmerich is one of very few filmmakers whose use of CGI I would consider perfectly used. Lots of blue screen was used in this movie, but hardly noticeable at all! And those very sequences shine the most in this presentation. Colors are across the boards superb and image detail is as flawless as it gets!
Exactly as loud and furious as I was hoping it would be! The DTS HD mix will do nothing short of rock your home theater to the breaking point…in a good way, though. Action sequences are indeed the highpoint, as gunfire and explosions galore give the surround sound system plenty to work with. Music score playback and dialogue delivery are at top notch quality as well!
This Blu-ray release from Sony features behind the scenes material that adds up to about an hour in running time. As you are about to see, they cover basically every possible aspect of this movie! Among the featurettes are “A Dynamic Duo: Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx”, “Men Of Action: Stunt Training”, “Meet The Insiders: Supporting Cast”, “Roland Emmerich: Upping The Ante”, “The Inside Story: From Script To The Big Screen”, “The Beast: Inside The Presidential Limo”, “The Full Arsenal: Guns, Grenades Tanks and Choppers”, “Presidential Treatment: A Massive Production”, “Crashing The Oval Office: Special Effects Breakdown”, “Drowning The Beast”, “Recreating The White House”, “VFX Boundaries Down” and “Lights, Camera, Heart Pumping Action”. Rounding out the extras is a very funny Gag Reel!
This Combo Pack release also includes a bonus DVD copy of the movie, as well as a Digital HD/Ultraviolet version to download.
As far as this year goes, action movies won’t get any better than White House Down! It’s brainless fun that I simply ate up and didn’t want to end. Tatum and Foxx are a superb on screen team and Roland Emmerich’s go-big-or-go-home approach is put to extravagant use! This is one to experience on Blu-ray!