Thursday, 3 December 2015

My Film Reviews - White House Down

White House Down appealed to me, as it's the unthinkable - an attack on the White House, or the President of the United States.

Quite a new film this one, only released in 2013. The film stars Jamie Foxx as the President, and Channing Tatum as the main lead. However the supporting cast is impressive - Maggie Gyllenhaal in a rare mainstream role, James Woods (does he ever play the good guy?) and Richard Jenkins.

The film begins with a bit of scene setting, with John Kale (Channing) attempting to secure a post with the secret service, but seemingly thwarted by Carol Finnerty (Gyllenhaal) who isn't convinced that he has what it takes. He is trying to build a better relationship with his daughter, Emily, who is excited by politics, and takes her along to the White House for his interview, and then a tour of the building. Not wanting to let her down, he lies and tells he he got the job. By chance, the President passes the tour, and Emily takes her chance to ask him a very difficult question - just how he expects to get everyone to agree to peace. Then proudly tells him that her dad is going to work for his secret service. The President whispers in Cale's ear to stop lying to children!

During the tour, a cleaner's cart blows up, and chaos ensues. It turns out to be a distraction - the main goal is a plot to kidnap the president himself. Cale's daughter was in the toilet, so gets separated from everyone else. There is lots of shooting, as the men trying to take over the White House start to kill at will. Cale escapes, but the President is captured. Walker (Woods) the retiring Head of the Presidential Detail, safely escorts the President to the operations centre, but then kills the remaining agents, revealing that he is responsible for the attack. Revenge for his dead son, who was killed on a mission that he felt had gone wrong, but being black ops was never dealt with.

During all the action, the President is presumed dead, and the Vice President, who was safely evacuated onto Air Force One is sworn in. Unfortunately, Walker has acquired the launch codes, and Air Force One is shot down. Raphelson, Speaker of the House of Representatives is sworn in, and in what appears to be a last attempt to end the crisis, orders an air strike on the White House, despite the civilians still inside.

Walker by this point, has learned of Cale's daughter's identity, and Emily is threatened with being shot if the President doesn't give him the codes. Walker intends to launch a Nuclear attack on Iran, as he believes the President is too weak and wants to send a message out to reassert their power and avenge his dead son. Sawyer, the President, refuses, even when Walker again threatens Emily, explaining that more will die if he give the codes.

Cale meanwhile, is still trying to save his daughter and the President, and has started fires off in the house. The sprinklers go off, and Cale manages to kill one of Walker's main men. Sawyer takes the chance to attack Walker, but fails and is shot. Walker, somehow has the codes and sets out to launch the air strike against Iran. Cale ploughs through the wall in a four by four, kills Walker and tells Emily about the strike that has been ordered on the White House, and she runs to the lawns with an American flag, waving it about to try and stop them. It works, and they pull back, and only then Sawyer reveals he isn't dead - the bullet had hit a watch his wife had given him.

Just when you think its all over, Finnerty (Gyllenhaal) calls Cale and tells him that Walker wasn't behind the plot after all. Cale works it out, and asks Sawyer to help draw him out. Finnerty and Raphelson arrive at the White House, and Cale tells them Sawyer is dead. Raphelson orders troops to return to the Middle East, going against the peace treaty. The call back number from Walker's pager reveals that the launch codes came from Raphelson. Sawyer is returned to the presidency, and Raphelson arrested. Cale is finally appointed to the secret service, making his daughter truly proud.

This is an action packed film, with limousine car chases, helicopter crashes and tanks. Loads of gun fire, missiles and even a nuclear missile! This isn't for the faint hearted! However, what it isn't is a brainless flick - there is no Jason Statham surviving death defying situations. It actually keeps it quite real - even some humour thrown in to keep the characters a bit more humble than is usual in these sort of films.

My particular favourites are when Channing asks the President to shoot the bad guy, and he hesitates in order to put his glasses on first, and then when they are forced to get into the limo, the President goes to get in back, and then states "force of habit". It really changes this film from action-thriller, to one more alike to the first Die Hard films, where they have clever and witty dialogue and monologue. A quip from Gyllenhaal about secret tunnels that were used by Kennedy to sneak Marilyn in being just one example! This film is made all the more enjoyable as a result.

I also like the technology used - the references to the daughter's blog, how everything is recorded and put onto You Tube, and the fact that virtually all of us have mobile phones - sorry, cell phones to use the American parlance. It makes it very present day.

It may well be a little far fetched - hacking into the American National Security system, getting explosives into the White House and so on, but if you put that aside, this is a fantastically enjoyable film. The effects are fabulous, Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx are an inspired pairing. The acting is good, the storyline solid. I definitely recommend this one. 9 out 10. I loved it!

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