Film Review: White House Down

Reviewed by Sam Robinson

Rated M. Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal. Directed by Roland Emmerich.

[Stars: 3/5]

One of the worst films of 2013 was A Good Day to Die Hard. It took the Die Hard franchise to Russia where John McClane and his son Jack jumped out of exploding helicopters into swimming pools, and the dialogue was so bad it may well have been written by kindergarten kids. In crayon. Bruce Willis seemed so bored. It was a long way from the classic action of  the 1988 original.

You can only imagine my surprise when I discovered that there was another Die Hard release in 2013, only this time it was set in the White House! OK, it’s not an official Die Hard sequel, but it is very much a carbon copy – even to the point of having a lead character sneaking around a building with a machine gun, dressed in a white singlet.

That film is White House Down – not a crossword clue. John Cale (Tatum) goes for a job with the US Secret Service. His interview is held at the White House (naturally) and he brings his political-savvy daughter Emily (Joey King) along on the day for a tour of the White House, as you do. As you might expect from the film’s title, something is about to go down. And it does. A bomb is detonated in the Capitol building, and a bunch of bad guys toting machine guns of various sizes take control of the White House.

Cale steps up to the plate as the shining hero and in what could make for the best CV inclusion, ends up responsible for protecting President James Sawyer (Foxx). Of course, Emily is taken hostage and Cale faces the dilemma of who to protect, all while stopping the bad guys from starting WWIII.

White House Down is a bunch of fun but the problem is that it’s just way too predictable. At the start of the film you can easily tell what’s going to happen, who will become traitors, the fact that bringing your daughter to the White House is a bad idea, etc etc. The film could have done with some suspense and twists. The bad guys manage to take over the White House with simplicity – it’s ridiculous that the Secret Service would be on the back foot as much as they are in this film. But hey, this is Hollywood.

Where the film also faltered was with the characters, particularly the lead. Cale is much too sure of himself. There’s no doubt that he’s going to succeed because he’s gung ho all of the time. He shows very little emotion and so it’s very hard to connect with him.

Foxx plays a good POTUS and his character grows as the film continues on. He begins a little shaken and unsure, but emerges as this machine gun-wielding tough guy. Of course as soon as the initial bomb is detonated, the only thing that really matters is protecting the President. It’s vital that he is saved from death because he is the leader of the free world. Security guards upon security guards are employed to ensure he is not harmed, and it’s on this day that this is put to the test.

This got me thinking about who Jesus is. The POTUS is of course, an important person. He’s about as important as VIP gets. But Jesus is the true ruler of the USA. In fact, he is the ruler of the world – even the universe! He has authority over everything. And yet, he serves. Jesus willingly came into this world to live among sinners like you and I, and unbelievably, he even chose to die for us! Philippians 2:5-8 says of Jesus:

…Christ Jesus… being in very nature God,

    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

    rather, he made himself nothing

    by taking the very nature of a servant,

    being made in human likeness.

    And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself

    by becoming obedient to death—

        even death on a cross!

It takes time for the President in White House Down to switch from being served, to one who serves. And as he is shaken, we see his humanity. He is just like you and I, and it’s only his position that makes him powerful and worthy of protection. Soon enough he enters the action and is forced to make decisions to help others.

Jesus has always been concerned about others. He created us, he loves us, and he chose make himself human to become like one of us, and he humbled himself to die for us. It’s insane that the Lord of the Universe would do such a thing, but thanks be to God, he has.

White House Down might be a clone of Die Hard and ridiculously predictable, but it’s still a thriller loaded with explosions, patriotism and action. I’m giving it three out of five stars.

White House Down is available on Blu-Ray, DVD and streaming on Quickflix.

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