Saturday, 14 September 2013

Review: White House Down

World of Blackout Film Review

White House Down Poster

White House Down
Cert: 12A / 131 mins / Dir. Roland Emmerich

Roll up, roll up, who wants to see the USA get taken down a notch or two? Again? With the two movies so close to each other in just about every aspect (Olympus has just hit DVD in the UK), you really can't help but compare them. In many ways, WHD is the more enjoyable film (it's certainly less sadistic and xenophobic), but the lightness of tone comes at a price; other than 'some people in America don't like how America currently is', the film struggles to find any real message. It's often the case that a dumb action flick doesn't need a message, obviously, but with a symbol as iconic as Mr President's crash-pad, it's difficult to reduce it to expensive rubble unless you're trying to say something.

The highpoints of the film are the scenes with Jamie Fox and Channing Tatum. They have great chemistry together, and play the President/Minder relationship more like a buddy-cop setup. However, everything outside of their wisecracking action sequences veers between 'gleefully disposable' and 'absolute bollocks'. You really just have to accept the ludicrous aspects of the Die Hard Lite plot, its one-dimensional antagonists, and the thought that the global media may actually broadcast, on television, the full name and photograph of a hostage responsible for sneaking siege footage online, while that hostage is still in the building.

But if anything, it's Emmerich's terrorists that are the weak link. Rather than demonising an entire country (y'know, like the other one did), he gives us corrupt politicians and racist redneck mercenaries. We're aware they already exist, of course, but it seems doubtable that they could bring about a coup as depicted in the film. Also suffering from Underdevelopment Syndrome is Jimmi Simpson's ace-hacker, Tyler, who strolls in like a bizarre cross between Limmy and Reece Shearsmith, exhibits too much personality for his brief scenes and is then treated as a background note. But, don't worry too much about the mechanics (and the often ropey script), just try and enjoy the ride and you shouldn't go too far wrong.

In the midst of a screenplay that doesn't quite know what it wants to be, Foxx and Tatum seem to bring the only genuine feeling to the film. In fact, I couldn't work out if the exterior shots of the massed public had been shot on a soundstage or were just appallingly lit outdoors, everything feels that synthetic.

White House Down is enjoyable enough, but ultimately it's the empty can, rattling away.

Oh, and Roland: that cack-handed reference to your Independence Day movie was shameful. Really.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
No, the trailer suggests a gravity which just isn't there.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
I suspect not.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
Unless you like seeing your helicopter crashes larger than life, you won't lose much by watching it at home.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not really.

Will I watch it again?
At some point.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
I didn't hear one, but I may well have missed it in the mayhem..

And because you won't be happy until I've given it a score...

And my question for YOU is…
Can we give it a rest now, though? Can we?

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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