White House Down lets director Roland Emmerich indulge in his favorite stunt–dumping ideological sludge atop his already bloated disaster films.
Emmerich, who previously prayed at the altar of Al Gore with the global warming fright flick The Day After Tomorrow, outdoes himself with his latest adventure. White House Down slams conservatives, the “military industrial complex,” defense contractors and any politician who thinks it might not be wise to withdraw all troops from the Middle East.
In case you missed the first eight swings of his progressive cudgel, Emmerich installs a Sean Hannity/Rush Limbaugh stand-in for endless mockery.
Ignore the far-left talking points and you’ve got a good hour of guilty pleasure cinema followed by an increasingly absurd story that suffers from Emmerich’s inability to edit his punditry or storytelling.
Channing Tatum stars as Cale, a wannabe Secret Service agent who finds a way to get his daughter, Emily (Joey King), an invite to tour the White House. Guess those sequester budget cuts went away in Emmerich’s fantasy version of the Obama administration.
Cale and Emily are soaking in the grandeur of the Oval Office when the White House is attacked by terrorists. The unnamed group secure the building and kidnap President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx). Suddenly, Cale is the only man standing between the terrorists and their twisted plans, but he’ll have to save both the president and his daughter, who goes missing during the initial melee.
The backstory is as important as the plot since the filmmakers have some messages they’d like to share. This president wants to pull all U.S. troops out of the Middle East, declaring that terrorism’s root cause is poverty–never mind how often that meme is debunked. We learn the defense contractors hate Sawyer’s proposal because they live to profit off of the dead. And our kind-hearted president, repeatedly shown in the same frame as a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln, only gets his hands dirty when no other option exists. He must wrangle with his opponents to get his military plan approved because the other party won’t do the right thing.
While Foxx’s portrayal of the president doesn’t offer up any direct ties to President Barack Obama. Still, much of that aforementioned material draws parallels to Obama. The media typical depicts Obama as above the political fray, or as a leader who can’t get his agenda done thanks to his intractible opponents.
President Sawyer does have a cigarette addiction, though. And, as co-star Richard Jenkins notes in one of the film’s more sly lines, “voters today want somebody cool” to be Commander in Chief.
Does it require a spoiler alert to reveal the label of the terrorists in question, or to say that the conservative broadcaster in question is shown to be a crybaby who doesn’t even think up all the nonsense he spouts on air?
White House Down would still serve as competent escapism, albeit of the dumbest order, if it didn’t overstay its welcome. Tatum and Foxx make a fine team, their individual strengths working together unlike the political parties represented here. Young King is dutifully scrappy, and the White House siege and aftermath is rendered with more care than the film’s predecessor, Olympus Has Fallen. The less said about the film wasting talents like Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jenkins and James Woods, the better.
Emmerich’s film doesn’t know when to quit, so it piles on the cardboard characters, absurd action scenes and poorly defined terrorists whose wavering motives prevent the film from eclipsing its talking points.
Emmerich the pundit would be advised to read some conservative sites to flesh out his woefully one-sided world view, while his movie-making persona should re-watch a movie like Die Hard to show how grand escapism works.