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Channing Tatum
Jamie Foxx
James Woods
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Lance Reddick
Richard Jenkins.
Roland Emmerich.
James Vanderbilt.
Running Time
131 minutes

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White House Down
The Wild West Wing

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On the dawn of a historic peace treaty, Capitol police operative John Cale (Tatum) takes his daughter on a tour of the White House. Naturally, scumbags crash it, and Cale finds himself charged with single-handedly rescuing the President (Foxx).

White House Down

How can the same shit happen to the same executive residence twice? Or, in fact, thrice? The White House obviously had a bad time in this year’s Olympus Has Fallen, a movie so patriotic it had Gerard Butler brain a baddie in the Oval Office using a bust of Abraham Lincoln. But who can forget the high-water mark of Penn. Avenue pandemonium: the all-the-money-in-the-Treasury shot in Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day, that sees the building get lasered by a UFO? Clearly not Emmerich, who freezes the exposition in the early stretch of White House Down just long enough to have a tour guide namecheck his own film.

It’s that kind of movie. Big, goofy, loud and as realistic a view of D.C. life as That’s My Bush!, it’s also the most fun the director has been since ID itself. At one point, Channing Tatum threatens a squirrel with a handgun. At another, a reporter exclaims, “Oh my God, it’s President Sawyer and he’s got a rocket launcher!” There are several moments where it’s a mere string or two away from Team America: World Police, not least a recurring beat where various politicos are sworn in as Commander-In-Chief, each time harder to watch with a straight face than the last.
But for the most part, Emmerich is in on the joke. And with Tatum and Jamie Foxx as Secret Service wannabe/leader of the free world, he’s got the sparkiest double-act of the summer (sorry, Tonto). Where Harrison Ford’s gruff Prez in Air Force One wasn’t tied to either party, Foxx’s Nicorette-chewing President Sawyer is blatantly modelled on Obama, albeit with less emphasis on federal emergency management and more on kicking the booty of treacherous voters. Once the leads team up in a bid to sneak away to safety, the movie properly shifts into gear; it avoids the obvious bickering-but-gradually-learning-to-accept-each-other route in favour of instant warmth and funny repartee. Both characters are hip and smart, though only Foxx gets to rock a pair of Air Jordans (Barack’s sneakers of choice).

Decidedly unhip are the villains, all of whom happen to have right-wing leanings. Emmerich gleefully inflicts suffering on a doughy Fox News-ish reporter, while a particularly lunkheaded dialogue exchange informs us that the dark power behind this threat to America is “the industrial-military complex”. The baddies on the ground, meanwhile, led by an Ed-Harris-from-The-Rock-channelling James Woods, are a motley crew of gun-toting rednecks. Refreshingly, given the anonymity of the thugs in Olympus Has Fallen, they are actually given a bit of personality. There’s one that looks like Bennett from Commando. One who resembles Anthony Hopkins on steroids. One who’s diabetic. And one who likes to hack to classical music, like Theo in Die Hard. Well, we did say a bit of personality.

In fact, in its pursuit of the spirit of Die Hard, the film veers perilously close to ripping off its hallowed granddaddy. It’s not just the Beethoven (Symphony No. 7 here; Hans Gruber prefers No. 9.), but the walkie-talkies, the elevator shafts, the attack choppers... All said, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if it turned out writer James Vanderbilt tapped out the script while wearing a white vest. But, though none of the action really hits the high notes of John McClane’s maiden mission — a ludicrous car chase around the White House lawn, involving Presidential limo The Beast getting its bulletproof armour thoroughly tested, comes closest — the chaos is at least consistently inventive, cleanly shot and largely done practically. Which is more than you can say for the latest Die Hard.

There are clichés galore, a dud role for Maggie Gyllenhaal as a Secret Service high-up who gets stuck sniffing out clues in the War Room, and some horribly rendered CG helicopters, a blight on many modern action flicks. But if you’re tuned into Emmerich’s tongue-in-cheek frequency, you’ll enjoy the bluntness of his vision. No tortured heroes or crumbling cities here: just a cheerfully cartoonish, old-school mash-up of one-liners, secret bunkers, flag-twirling, stressed NORAD technicians, atomic subs and maniacs with rocket-propelled grenades. That independence Day-referencing tour guide? He gets a shotgun. Of course he does.

Lincoln meets Sudden Death: a corny but raucous throwback to when Planet Hollywood was hip. Gary Busey popping out of a rose bush wouldn’t feel out of place.

Reviewed by Nick de Semlyen

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for White House Down
Empire Star Rating

Send in the British SAS

It just goes to show how the US Secret Service and their Special Forces couldn't sort out a shit-storm in a teacup which is why the world is still in a state of conflict. Next time send in the SAS to sort things out. And they called off an airstrike because a little girl waved a flag on the White House lawns. God bless America and give me strength. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lazaskey at 14:31, 12 January 2015 | Report This Post

Police response time

Now if you were speeding you'd get 30 police cars chasing you within 30 seconds. Everyone in the White House gets shot and the main section gets blown up and the police race there after 30 minutes. You couldn't make it up. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lazaskey at 13:11, 12 January 2015 | Report This Post


Every scene, every line of dialogue...dredged up from the sludge at the bottom of the cliché pool. Die Hard with a family friendly edge (i.e. bloodless gun battles, no swearing) this was like watching a DH parody for a lot of its running time. Ok for teens who have never heard of John McClane I suppose. ... More

Posted by Vitamin F at 10:41, 24 June 2014 | Report This Post


Olympus has fallen and this film is scraping the bottom of the barrel. Don’t waste your time. There’s rubbish and then there’s entertaining rubbish. This film leans toward the former. Rubbish - pure and simple. ONE STAR ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 17:16, 01 April 2014 | Report This Post

RE: Trailer was better...

Blows up the White House, but definitely won't blow you away. After 5 minutes of watching the whole film can be predicted. It had some entertaining one-liners, but really doesn't give any really punch. There is, however, hope for this film with things blowing up left, right and center. Mildly entertaining if you turn your brain off for 90 minutes. I gave it #0033CC]★★½ Read my view HEREor=#0033CC]] ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BigScreenBullfrog at 21:47, 16 October 2013 | Report This Post

Trailer was better...

The trailer for this film gave it hope, i actually walked out must have been 15mins towards the end am not to sure. It looked promising but it really falls flat....would never watch again ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Stephenh28 at 15:36, 14 October 2013 | Report This Post

RE: White House Down

Sorry,but no. Olympus has Fallen is way better than this mess. That was old school Die Hard action for adults-this was watered down kiddie crap. And Tatum,a mannequin would be a better actor. Truly awful. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by CriticNumberOne at 10:56, 12 October 2013 | Report This Post

RE: White House Down

With a title like White House Down, you’d might remember this year’s other white house-set actioner Olympus Has Fallen in which director Antoine Fuqua took a po-faced and frankly dull approach to a pitch that is essentially “Die Hard in the White House”. However, the president’s house has been invaded, destroyed, etc. for so many years, the most iconic being Roland Emmerich’s very own Independence Day, which itself is used in a gag in Emmerich’s latest. Whilst struggling to develop a bette... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 00:49, 12 October 2013 | Report This Post

What the Foxx were you thinking Jamie?

Django for President? After the career height of Django Unchained, supported by the sublime Christophe Waltz; whatever possessed Jamie Foxx to accept a role in this piece of hokum alongside the most wodden, charmless blank expression bearing leading man since Captain Scarlett (the Gerry Anderson puppet). OK, so I'm sure Mr Emmerich and co producer Tatum waved much moolah in front of the usually Fantastic Mr Fox, but surely JF could have politely declined -as could a stellar cast of reliable ac... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by C K Dexter Haven at 11:51, 27 September 2013 | Report This Post

Once again, White House security is lacking...

Well, very Die Hard and a shame it came out so soon after Olympus Has Fallen (and shared so many obvious plot points) In fact the author Vince Flynn wrote a similar plot a few years ago featuring his Mitch Rapp character. Sadly Flynn is no longer with us, but the Rapp series is well worth catching. Most of this was fun in a mindless sort of way, reasonably well cast even if the plot ran along the usual lines of the bad guy being one of the POTUS closest chums, in this case the head of the Sec... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bretty at 15:30, 16 September 2013 | Report This Post

Once again, White House security is lacking...

Well, very Die Hard and a shame it came out so soon after Olympus Has Fallen (and shared so many obvious plot points) In fact the author Vince Flynn wrote a similar plot a few years ago featuring his Mitch Rapp character. Sadly Flynn is no longer with us, but the Rapp series is well worth catching. Most of this was fun in a mindless sort of way, reasonably well cast even if the plot ran along the usual lines of the bad guy being one of the POTUS closest chums, in this case the head of the Sec... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bretty at 15:30, 16 September 2013 | Report This Post

Electro for President...

The script is not anything special and sometimes it feels like the movie has stayed in the same place for the past 15 minutes, however Tatum and Foxx have a good on-screen chemistry, with plenty of humorous moments. But ultimately, it feels like a wannabe Die Hard that has overstayed its welcome. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Lol man at 16:06, 15 September 2013 | Report This Post

nice vest but Bruce he aint

better than the earlier "Olympus has fallen", and im Scottish, Tatum has all the humour of a polystyrene cup, but thankfully he is surrounded by better actors ( including his little girl) Foxx carries the movie, and although Woods must groan every time a script like this lands on his doormat he still earns every dollar of his paycheak . the CGI helicopters look like they have been "cut and pasted" and an RPG fired from that range wouldn't even scratch an Abrams tank ( but I,... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by findogask at 17:53, 14 September 2013 | Report This Post

The fantastic Mr Foxx.

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

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 16:11, 14 September 2013 | Report This Post

Sounds like fun...

Based on this review, it sounds like the classic "Die Hard on a..." films I loved at the cinema in the early 90s. None of the recent Die Hard films, or even Olympus Has Fallen has not matched any of those films (Under Siege, Passenger 57, Speed, etc) for excitement and jeopardy, as most recent films turn down the violence to PG-13/12A levels, and use CGI for set pieces and gun-shot wounds over squibs and blood packs, and genuine stunt performance and model shots, as well as snappy dial... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by KeithyT77 at 14:50, 06 September 2013 | Report This Post

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