Evading the Threat Matrix

White House Down

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Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, Jason Clarke, Jimmi Simpson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Nicholas Wright, Richard Jenkins, Lance Reddick, Matt Craven

Historians have concluded that the decline of the Roman Empire happened from within due to the increasing barbarization of the army protecting its vast borders. In Roland Emmerich’s impressive White House Down, the same can be said for the paramilitary group which attack America’s presidential palace with impunity in retaliation for the President pulling out all US armed forces from the Middle East.

Although this Decline of the American Empire is nowhere near as subtle or brilliant as the Canadian film version by Denys Arcand, White House Down is a more intricately plotted action thriller than Antoine Fugua’s thematically similar film Olympus Has Fallen. Both films, have similar plot points and follow an almost identical narrative except that in White House Down, the enemy is not a bunch of gun totting Koreans, but a right wing American paramilitary group who have slipped through the threat matrix.

What makes Emmerich’s White House Down a better picture than Olympus has Fallen, is that there is more background characterization making the motives for such an attack on the White House infinitely more credible thanks to the inventive screenwriting of James Vanderbilt. Whilst Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart do not have as much bonding time in Olympus Has Fallen, the two stars of White House Down, Channing Tatum (Magic Mike, The Vow) as wannabe secret service agent John Cale  and likeable African American president Sawyer, played with a humorous twist by the ever watchable Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained, Collateral), make for the teaming of two brilliant leading men. The rest of the cast consists of the experienced Maggie Gyllenhaal as Finnerty, James Woods as Walker head of the Secret Service and the brilliant Richard Jenkins as the Speaker Raphelson.

Emmerich also manages to capture the historical significance of the White House as Cale and his news savvy daughter are first taken on a tour of the White House, during which the vicious paramilitary group lead by the ubiquitous Australian actor Jason Clarke (The Great Gatsby, Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty) playing ex-special ops strongman Stengz start planning their Coup d’Etat.  In a precursor of what’s install, there is even a painting showed in one scene of the film, showing the newly built 19th century White House up in flames during the Burning of Washington by the British Army in 1812, the only time a foreign power has ever occupied the American capital – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_of_Washington.

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Whilst the characterization and historical back story of the first half of White House Down make for fascinating viewing, the second half of the film transcends all sense or sensibility as all the American presidential icons from Air Force One to the famed White House are blown to smithereens. The action is nevertheless stimulating whilst the film does appear to veer towards a very unsubtle level of American patriotism not seen on the big screen since Olive Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July. White House Down is sure to keep audiences spellbound by the fantastic special effects and brilliantly orchestrated bid budget action sequences which is expected from the director of such blockbusters as Independence Day, 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.

White House Down like Emmerich’s previous films is not without some wonderful comic touches, making the characters human in times of a crisis, despite some of their intentions, from the White House tour guide Donny played by Nicholas Wright to the diabolical techno guru Tyler, played by Jimmi Simpson (Zodiac) hacking into Presidential compound’s mainframe computer whilst listening to Beethoven’s 5th, or the sneaker clad US President Sawyer arming himself with a rocket launcher as they race around the White House’s pristine lawn in one of the film’s best chase sequences. Just imagine Obama doing that?

Recommended viewing for lovers of big budget action films, and unadulterated American patriotism. See White House Down to believe it!

 

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