White House Down – a film critique

Roland Emmerich, US being threatened, high suspense, end of the world atmosphere, heros, great camera angles on DC and airplanes, expanding our views of world famous sights that can be destroyed, etc. – all these elements make a good blockbuster, for sure. Fantastic entertainment where an action fan cannot be disappointed. This is so typical for Emmerich’s movie success. It always seems the same pattern. Who cares? But again, the director stretches our views in what is possible through special effects and surprises in who is the actual villain.

But plot first: John Cale (handsome Channing Tatum) is applying as a security guard in the White House. Being divorced from his wife he seems to have lost sight of his 11-year old daughter Emily who admires the American president. He tries to win her back by taking her to the White House on a guided tour after he had an interview. Emily is excited, even meets the president herself taking a short interview. The Capitol’s rotunda explodes and terrorists enter the building while John and Emily are separated because she needed to use the bathroom. John reacts quickly and protects the president in different parts of the building. If this is the real White House where they were filming at, it is already interesting in itself to see the interior design, the complicated catacombs, and various paintings. The hunt for the terrorists involves a lot of shooting, several explosions in and around the White house, a chase of limos on the presidential lawns, and speculations why a former well-awarded American secret agent suddenly takes revenge on his last day of work. Will John become the hero to win back his daughter? Does the president survive? And what is the message of the story?

I don’t think there is a deeper message behind the plot and we all can kinda guess, hey? We all need heros. That’s it!

What deeply surprised me when I watched the movie was its humor. Yes, a funny action movie. I can’t remember watching anything like that before. And you might think it doesn’t work together while facing the end of the world through a nuclear war ( a theme chosen way too often) but maybe that’s the message – not taking anything too serious? The audience gets greatly entertained. The humor is simple using visuals like the president (similarities Obama are intended) shooting a rocket launcher out of a limo. It seems so absurd and funny at the same time. The dialogue even tops it. President: I lost the rocket launcher. Cale: You lost…how can you lose a rocket launcher? Or later, the president using the words: Fuck you and shit. I am not used to this but I guess, it is said during a time of crisis 😉

Maybe I am a little nostalgic, too. Just two months ago I visited DC and got to see all the important sights within 2 days. The area of the Capitol, the National Mall, Washington Monument, White House, Lincoln Memorial, the Potomac river passing through the heart of the city is very impressive. Seeing all these famous sights in a blockbuster movie makes you understand why Americans want to protect their country with all their passion: they want to see more movies like that. Only things you know and appreciate can also be saved or protected. So please, German director Mr. Emmerich, give us more heros, save us from the seemingly inevitable Third World War or terrorism, and give us amazing views of the interior design of famous buildings so we Germans, Americans, etc. can have/make fun of patriotism and exaggerated heroism, yes!   Rating: (*)(*)(*)(*)(*)

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