‘White House Down’ Review

Published 2 years ago by , Updated November 15th, 2014 at 12:27 am,

White House Down Channing Tatum White House Down Review

Emmerich has produced a competent (read: not essential) blockbuster thriller that is likely to satisfy filmgoers who were intrigued by the trailers and/or core premise.

Roland Emmerich’s White House Down (not to be confused with Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen) follows John Cale (Channing Tatum), a US Capitol Police officer assigned with protecting the Speaker of the House (played by Richard Jenkins). Cale’s estranged daughter, Emily (Joey King), is a political junkie and in an effort to win her favor, he applies for a position with the U.S. Secret Service – and joins her for a tour of the White House.

However, when a fringe terrorist group lays siege to the White House, Cale manages to free U.S. President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) from his captors – unfortunately, Emily is taken hostage in the process. As the paramilitary intruders scour the White House in search of Sawyer, Cale becomes the only person who can both save Emily and escort the President to safety – not to mention, stand between the hostile force and their goals of global devastation.

As a director and producer, Emmerich is known for his extensive resume of blockbuster action movies, with enormous CGI spectacle and ensemble casts, including Stargate, Independence Day, GodzillaThe Day After Tomorrow, and 2012, among others. As a result, many moviegoers will likely be expecting the same over-the-top approach and large-scale CGI destruction that has become a staple in his action movie offerings. However, even though White House Down includes memorable blockbuster moments, it’s much more straightforward and focused (though just as eccentric) – sold primarily by the team of Tatum and Foxx, not explosive visuals.

Jamie Foxx Channing Tatum White House Down White House Down Review

Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum in ‘White House Down’

As a result, the film is much more akin to the one-man-army formula seen in favorites like Die Hard, as Foxx and Tatum divide their time between sneaking in the shadows and gun/fist fighting (with plenty of cathartic one-liners thrown into the mix). A couple of extravagant set-pieces punctuate the core hide-and-shoot formula to ratchet up the excitement and explosions to summer spectacle level, but anything in between is mostly flimsy filler designed to move the plot forward to the next action encounter. The result is an enjoyable action hero tour of the bullet-riddeled White House grounds – albeit one that will require viewers to switch-off their brains on more than one occasion.

Despite some tongue-in-cheek banter between Cale and Sawyer (as well as the main villains), the White House Down story takes itself pretty seriously at times – making an effort to ground the proceedings in contemporary geo-politics. Attempts to center the movie around present-day issues help make twists and turns in the plot relevant, but Emmerich’s sometimes on-the-nose message results in predictable revelations and fallout that might be off-putting to certain viewers (especially anyone who disagrees with the director’s banal characterization of the political arena).

Of course, White House Down is not designed to be a provocative drama about political maneuvering, it is (above all else) a silly summer action film. In service of that goal, the core story and characters are competent in their jobs – even if Emmerich spends a bit too much time spinning a web of political corruption.

James Woods White House Down White House Down Review

James Woods as Martin Walker in ‘White House Down’

Channing Tatum brings an entertaining mix of campy humor and unrelenting action chops, which should not come as a surprise to viewers who enjoyed seeing the actor flex his comedy wit and/or muscles in 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike, or Haywire, in addition to others. Cale isn’t the most nuanced character that Tatum has played, but he’s a serviceable (although ultimately forgettable) leading man – one that audiences should have no problem following from firefight to fistfight for the majority of the film.

Jamie Foxx is equally entertaining as President Sawyer, delivering fun twists to standard commander-in-chief tropes while serving as an especially amusing foil to Cale. Sawyer is behind a number of the White House Down‘s best moments and even though he’s accountable for a few eye-rolling setbacks, his personal quirks and bold stance in the face of uncertainty offset any derivative plot setups.

Supporting players are also strong and include Jason Clarke, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, and (as mentioned) Richard Jenkins, along with several other familiar faces (such as The Wire, Lost, and Fringe alum Lance Reddick). After a string of standout side roles (in Zero Dark Thirty and Lawless, to name a few), Clarke gets to enjoy a bit more screen time this round as mercenary leader, Emil Stenz – a sharp counterpoint to Tatum’s John Cale in both cunning and physical strength. Several key scenes rely heavily on thirteen-year-old Joey King and the young actress is a solid addition – whether chastising daddy Cale or staring down terrorist bad guys. Unfortunately, one of her final contributions will, without question, result in eye rolls and unintended laughs – serving as an example of the disconnect that exists when the film pays homage to its campy action hero pedigree in the middle of bloody life-and-death drama.

Nicholas Wright Joey King Channing Tatum White House Down White House Down Review

Nicholas Wright, Joey King, and Channing Tatum in ‘White House Down’

Emmerich has produced a competent (read: not essential) blockbuster thriller that is likely to satisfy filmgoers who were intrigued by the trailers and/or core premise – and the pairing of Tatum and Foxx provides plenty of worthwhile character moments to carry the film through any predictable or underwhelming story beats. However, even with those good points, White House Down ultimately falls short of classic films in the genre (i.e., Die Hard).

If you’re still on the fence about White House Down, check out the trailer below:


[poll id="634"]

[poll id="635"]


White House Down runs 131 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence including intense gunfire and explosions, some language and a brief sexual image. Now playing in theaters.

Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below.

For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check out our White House Down episode of the SR Underground podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future reviews, as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

Follow Ben Kendrick on Twitter @benkendrick
Get our free email alerts on the topics and author of this article:


Post a Comment

GravatarWant to change your avatar?
Go to Gravatar.com and upload your own (we'll wait)!

 Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.
 Use a valid email address or risk being banned from commenting.

If your comment doesn't show up immediately, it may have been flagged for moderation. Please try refreshing the page first, then drop us a note and we'll retrieve it. Keep in mind that we do not allow external links in the comments.

  1. Just saw Olympus Has Fallen last night, was looking forward to this film much more though so I’ll def be checking it out. I already know what to expect from Emmerich so a lot of his quirks may not bother me much, especially if Tatum and Foxx will be in it.

    • White House down is a good movie. You should go see it.

    • Save your money & re-rent Godzilla until DVD

  2. OK, but which is better: Olympus, or this one?

    • For me personally, they’re hard to directly compare. The premise is the same but they have a very different tone. Olympus Has Fallen took itself pretty seriously, this one is a bit lighter.

      I reviewed both of them and gave them the same 3/5 score – so, they’re about equal to me. Fun but brainless popcorn flicks with decent action.

      • The casting may be the deciding factor.
        Butler for me is a much more credible lethal
        force than Tatum so I could enjoy that movie.

        • @Robert

          Strangely enough, even though this one was meant more like an action-comedy, it had fewer plot holes than Olympus Has Fallen, lol.

          • :D You do have to turn off that inner voice saying
            “it really would not happen like that” to enjoy it.
            As much as this is pretend reality it is fantasy.

  3. After seeing the clips and pics John Cale should’ve been John McClane’s son…I’m just say’n.

    • Tatum is “John” in a soiled tank top t-shirt. This movie used to be DIE HARD…and the President hunted by a scrum of villains is AIR FORCE ONE. Add the “buddy” factor with one-liners — RUSH HOUR.

      Really, Hollywood can play this game all day.

  4. So if I really, truly, hated Olympus… is this worth my time?

    • Hated is a strong word ;) So, if that’s how you felt, I doubt there’s enough that’s different enough in this one to make it worth your time in the theater. They are different movies but still rely on a lot of similar elements.

      • The use of the word hate is all to common these days and should be avoided.
        Why invest that level of emotion particularly for something you do not like.

        • Meaning films I don’t like. I refuse to
          work myself up to the level of hate.

  5. I enjoyed OHF when it came out. It was kinda fun, violent, didn’t really pretend to be anything else other than that. Think I’ll wait for Redbox on this one.

    • Exactly, it was a popcorn flick for me, nothing more.

  6. The interesting thing is that White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen are more like a Die Hard movie than A Good Day To Die Hard was….Heck, Die Hard felt more like a Bourne movie…what is happening?

    • Correction: A Good Day to Die Hard felt more like a sh** movie! I hear they’re doing a 6th hopefully they make that one more palatable.

      But yeah I actually heard OHF is very Die Hard-esque. Thats actually what made me want to see it. Just haven’t been able to redbox-it yet. Is it out?

  7. This reminds me of the scene in “Knocked Up” where they say all great movies come in two’s, “Volcano” and “Dante’s Peak”, “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact”, “Wyatt Earp” and “Tombstone”, now “Olympus Has Fallen” and “White House Down”.

  8. I’m not hating, but does anyone else notice just how terrible of an actor Channing Tatum is. I mean this man delivers one stale performance after another. His emotion and the delivery of his lines are so flat.

    I don’t want to hear a word about how good he was in 21 Jump Street, he’s has acted in a total of 31 movies. One decent performance doesn’t make up for a poor body of work.

  9. I liked Olympus Has Fallen. You have to suspend disbelief to enjoy these films.
    That said, I can’t get passed Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum. Not a fan of either.

    • @Robert

      It was alright, I kind of hold them both kind of equal, but because of the little girl in WHD, I do kind of like her character more than I liked any of the characters in Olympus Has Fallen… Also, they really needed to give Aaron Eckhart the opportunity to be the ass kicker in that movie and they didn’t…

      • A President as ass-kicker would be harder for me to accept and
        play along with than some of the other not too credible events.

        • @Robert

          Not talking about throughout the movie, but I was hoping that he would get to take out the last villain or something. You saw that he was not a complete push-over in the beginning of the movie when he’s boxing with Butler’s character…

  10. Why do I have the feeling that this movie would be an action classic if it was released in the 1980s and was directed by John McTiernan?

    • “Yippee kiyay, mutha*****!” :-D

      • The way you wrote that I can hear it :D

  11. So basically, this version of the plot is more like that one episode of 24 when terrorists took over the White House and held President Taylor hostage while Bauer pretended to be a WH employee after helping rescue a few trapped people?

    Pass then. Tatum wouldn’t live up to the awesome of Bauer.

    • Right, Dazz. That was amazing. Tatum ain’t no Bauer.

      • I was interested in 24 before. But honestly, after a few seasons that had all of the same plotlines and twists, it got old very fast…

        • Well, it was eight seasons as I recall.
          A few were out and out riveting classics.
          All in all it held up as best that can be expected.

          • I think that’s the problem sometimes.

            It was 8 years of fighting terrorists. It’s difficult to do that and keep it constantly exciting while also throwing in the inevitable plot twist.

            Still one of the best shows I’ve ever seen though, even if season 3 was poor.

            • True. One of the best ever
              and an all-time fav of mine.

            • @Dazz

              But that’s the thing. They didn’t HAVE to put in some “omg” twist into it. It just felt gimmicky… I mean, here is supposedly some super advanced counter terror unit. Yet they somehow let a terrorist get by all of their scrutiny to become some high ranking official within it? And even worse, doesn’t Jack Bauer get romantically involved with more than one traitor? And how many times did this super elite counter terror unit have a terrorist “surrounded” and that guy will somehow “slip out the back?” I mean, REALLY?? I would have really enjoyed it a whole lot more if it didn’t seem like they only had one agent that knew what he was doing…

              For me, the first season of The Unit is better than 24, except as a whole, the 3 seasons of The Unit was pretty craptacular. It was really downhill after the first season, so I would say as a whole, 24 is better than The Unit because they were able to keep it somewhat consistent for so many years while The Unit was AMAZING for one season and then fell apart after that…

              Not a lot of people realized, but The Unit’s first season put A LOT of real-life stuff into it… Some episodes were even based after real world spec ops missions…

        • Jack Bauer Rules!!!!

  12. I saw this movie in a screening, and I have to say, somehow, this comedy version of Olympus Has Fallen actually has fewer plot holes… I have no idea how that works, lol.

    Also, I have one major gripe about the movie…

    ***minor spoilers ahead***
    An RPG will never penetrate the armor of a M1 Abrams tank… Would have made more sense if they used Javelins against it since that’s what the Javelin was made for, destroying armored vehicles… That RPG would have messed up the Abrams’ paint job, that’s about it…
    ***end spoilers***

    Oh, and I loved that little girl. So many times whenever a young person survives something life threatening, they throw around the adjective “brave” all the time. Honestly, most of the time there was nothing brave about what that kid did. All that really happened was the kid got lucky and survived… But in this movie, she really was brave, without giving anything away, that scene where she says “I understand” to the president, I was like “Awwwwwwwwww…..” She was really a brave little girl in this movie.

    • Totally agree on the RPG thing. Also what about using an ICBM to take down a moving 747? Did I really see that? And you just had to love the chrome RPG in the backseat of the presidential limo. Oh yeah!

      The best part of this movie is that lots of things get blown up (realistically or not).

  13. Both Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down look pretty good as basic action thrillers go. Kind of look like a Vince Flynn novel or a Brad Thor novel. I will watch both, and if they are really good, I will buy the DVDs. Have them both requested on Netflix at the moment.

  14. Rental, maybe. Jamie Fox as the president? LOL

  15. It was a good movie. The reviews was inaccurate on several websites. I think, it was more 4- 4.5 movie. I am glad I went and saw it versus taking the reviews from rotten tomatoes website.

    • This is the thing.

      Reviews are subjective to the personal opinions of the reviewer in question, Screen Rant have said this themselves.

      I can honestly say I’ve never even visited the RT website because all I need to do is read about a movie and watch a trailer to know if I might like it or not.

  16. Olympus Has Fallen is my pick. I really enjoyed the film, its action, macho dialogues and performances. Though it had a major let down in the special effects department, it was a great popcorn flick.

  17. Just wait for the Hercules movies opening around the same time one will have Dwayne the Rock Johnson and the other one will star Kellan Lutz from Twilight, which one will you choose?????

    • The Rock, every single time.

  18. It’s logical that this movie falls short on classics such as Die Hard. It even isn’t as good as Olympus has Fallen — actually White House Down is a waste of your time and money.

  19. I saw this today, and I also saw OHF in theaters when it came out, and in my opinion White House Down was more entertaining. They were both solid summer action flicks, but White House Down had more memorable moments, and definitely had me more emotionally involved. I don’t think Tatum is such a bad actor, though, so there is that.

  20. was White House Down more interesting than a block of wood with a nail in it? let’s find out.

  21. Mix James Bond, the West Wing, loud explosions, blurred cameras and an accidental hero and you get WHD. The much discussed “politics” was typical Hollywood blather – virtuous minorities, bad old whites, evil military, shady corporations – it’s all so…unsurprising.

    IWe’ve seen it many times – a bad insider turns on the brave president – Jamie Foxx, as believable as Elmer Fudd. The comedic impulses cannot be contained. Our hero (Tatum) avoids a zillion bullets AND defeats an army of trained terrorists.

    Great action/chase scenes but the story reeks with phoniness – no one knows why they attacked the WH, lots of screaming at the camera,, the laughable ease of capture, villans from Central Casting (white power dudes for Pete’s sake), the hokey ending. But I love Jame Bond and James Spader not to mention the standout, daughter ( Joey King).

  22. I attended the premiere of White HOuse Down and all I can say is Hollywood is to be commended!
    Joseph Geobbels, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister for the Nazi party, whose job it was to make Adolf seem like the greatest thing since sliced bread could not have done a better job than Hollywood did to make this Obama propaganda piece of crap, and delude yourself all you what, but Foxx was playing Obama and once again declaring that Obummer is the new lord and savior!
    We had to surrender our phones before entering the theater but at least we did not have to give a stiff arm salute and pledge alligence!

  23. Just watched OHF. Terrible. The whole thing stunk of cheap sets and low production values, and apparently Washington has no people in it! Surely they could have afforded a few more extras so the place looked like an actual city as opposed to an empty set. Was surprised to see Fuqua directed it – expected better from him.

  24. If you were a member of Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Seattle, etc. you MIGHT be oblivious to the goofy cliches that are thrown around. Channing Tatum, Joey King, and James Woods make their screen time enjoyable, but the script and low-information politics had us laughing out loud… and not at the right times. (Nicholas Wright did offer comedic quips that allow you to laugh at appropriate times) Jamie did his best, but weak, Obama imitation generating another chuckle (about the sad situation in Benghazi) when he said we could send drones anywhere in the world in an hour’s time, Oops. Avoid the theaters and get it on DVD on discount day.

  25. Ok, so here is a question. If WHD had been released first would the critics have been as harsh in reviewing OHF?

    I went to see WHD with no expectations other than I thought it would be a fun summer action movie. I wasn’t disappointed.

    I think WHD would have done better at the box office had it been released in November as originally planned. That and when OHF was released there wasn’t the tight box office competition there was when WHD was released.

  26. I just liked it! Channing Tatum as a dad is still a lil too unrealistic. Especially a 13 year old. Lol!