Daily Archives: March 13, 2020

White House Down (2013)

*. I spent a lot of time in my notes on Olympus Has Fallen talking about how that film was basically one of a long line of Die Hard clones. Since White House Down is nearly the same movie with a different title the best way to start may be to just compare it to Olympus Has Fallen.
*. The balance sheets make an interesting study in Hollywood accounting. White House Down cost twice as much to make ($150 million to $70 million), but also did slightly better in terms of box office ($205 million to $170 million). Despite this, Olympus Has Fallen was considered a hit and spawned an immediate sequel while White House Down was written off as a bomb for Sony.
*. It was reported that the script alone for White House Down cost $3 million, which was a waste since it is total garbage. All it had was the proverbial high concept, but in the wake of Olympus Has Fallen even that became a drag. Hadn’t we just seen all this?
*. On balance, and it is a close call, I think I prefer Olympus Has Fallen. It moves at a sprightlier pace and has a goofier attitude toward the material. I don’t want to be mistaken as saying that White House Down is any more realistic though. Sure a frontal assault on the White House by a bunch of terrorists was dumb, but at least the guys in that movie had a plan. I’m not sure what was going on here. There’s a loose alliance of types involved who seem to have different agendas. How they all managed to work together is beyond me. I wasn’t even sure who was supposed to be in charge of the conspiracy.
*. Chyrons and talking heads have become our new spinning newspaper headlines for advancing the plot and giving the audience information. They do heavy duty filling in the background here. It seems the president (Jamie Foxx) is behind a peace initiative that the usual suspects are up against. Cue the coup.
*. Christopher Orr found something incongruous in director Roland Emmerich’s “peculiar blend of pacifistic piety and wanton violence.” I think it would be more jarring if the piety weren’t so overplayed. As it is, it’s hard to credit that part of the script as being serious.
*. Channing Tatum as the Hero and Foxx as the president both play well. James Woods doesn’t even seem to be trying at this point, but in such a role he doesn’t have to do more than the bare minimum. The real weak links are the characters played by Maggie Gyllenhaal and Joey King (a Secret Service agent and Tatum’s daughter respectively). It’s been noted before that Emmerich doesn’t have much time for female characters, but these two are so annoying they’re positively damaging.
*. What was the point of Gyllenhaal even calling Cale (Tatum) in for an interview anyway when it’s clear right from the get-go that he’s not going to get the job based on his record? I mean, that wasn’t a real job interview, was it? Still, it lets his final plea to “Just give me a chance!” hang in the air. Oh, he’ll get his chance. Just like that Lincoln pocketwatch will come back into play.
*. As for Emily (King), are we supposed to feel good that her YouTube channel is now going to go viral? Is that what all her flag-waving was really about?
*. Things blow up and many rounds of ammunition are expended. There are lots of fights. The rescue attempt, a helicopter attack identical to that in Olympus Has Fallen, suffers the identical fate. At the end of the movie the live and television/Internet audience erupts into cheers. Truth, justice, family, the flag, and the American way of life are triumphantly affirmed.
*. I mentioned earlier how the heavy-handed messaging is undercut by the fact that it’s so hard to take seriously. I had the same feeling watching Olympus Had Fallen, where the more jingoistic scenes seemed to me as though they must have been intended tongue-in-cheek or as a joke. But I don’t think satire is ever the intent. You can be cynical about such matters but you’re not allowed to laugh.