Given the recent release of Olympus Has Fallen, walking into White House Down felt like a case of déjà vu. That said, despite the numerous plot similarities, this second take on terrorists tackling the President at home scores higher on at least two points.
White House Down stars Channing Tatum as John Cale, a Washington DC police officer assigned to protect politicians. His goal is to get assigned to President James Sawyer’s Secret Service detail, as much to impress his critical teenager as achieve a rare highpoint in his life. Cale’s three tours of Afghanistan have resulted in a broken marriage and a struggling relationship with his daughter. However in a dramatic case of right-place, wrong-time Cale’s job interview coincides with a terrorist attack on the White House that puts the president in peril. While his daughter languishes in a room full of hostages, Cale takes on psychopathic neo-Nazis while struggling to save the world’s most powerful man and avoid an all-out nuclear confrontation with the rest of the world. It’s a good thing the bad guys haven’t reckoned with the Tatum’s ability to survive machine guns, rockets and free-fall from a three-story building.
White House Down would normally qualify as bubblegum for the mind, joining the ranks of ‘Most Expensive And Unlikely Plotlines Ever’ alongside of The Day After, 2012 and … well, Olympus Has Fallen. However it’s saved from outright relegation to the DVD bargain bin by at least a couple of points. Firstly the film doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as its more recent predecessor. Jamie Foxx does an excellent job as a black American president in touch with his roots, kicking free of a terrorist’s grasp with the line, “Get – your – hands – off – my – Jordans!” That’s just one of a raft of lighter moments that prevent this excuse for explosions descending into complete farce. The other point in its favour is its ‘big theme’ line.
Every action film tends to have one of those moments when the hero or some appropriate authority figure steps up on to a conveniently placed soapbox and delivers the speech that’s supposed to lift our eyes to a truth worth rallying around. If your film’s got a president then he’s the most likely candidate. In Independence Day Bill Pullman tells humanity on the verge of extinction, “We will not go quietly into the night!” In An American President Michael Douglas tells his election team, “People don’t drink the sand because they’re thirsty – they drink the sand because they don’t know the difference.” And in White House Down Jamie Foxx manages a memorable exchange with his wife, who walks away with the best line:
President: “If I don’t get the votes [for my peace plan] then you’re looking at a one-term president.”
First Lady: “Do you still have that watch I gave you? “
President: “Yes, it’s in my pocket next to my heart.”
First Lady: “Mary Todd gave it to Lincoln to remind him he only had so much time to do good things.””
Indeed, we do only have so much time to do good things. Jesus used a story about servants being given talents to invest to make the same point. Which goes to show that every film that reaches for the profound – even White House Down – however unknowingly, reaches for God’s property. And though President Sawyer is probably concerned with the opinion of his constituents or history, we should have a more personal and informed judge in mind. Every day we see the sun set on is one less between believers and the Kingdom of Heaven. But those who live extravagantly towards Christ today will find that they did not waste a minute when it finally arrives, because Jesus finished his stor with:
“To everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
Release Date: September 5