REVIEW: “White House Down”

WHD poster

Who would have thought that 2013 would be the year of the ‘terrorists take over the White House’ action movie? Well, that is if two movies about a White House terrorist takeover warrants such a title. The first of these films was “Olympus has Fallen”, a straightforward old school action picture that I liked due to its clear idea of what it wanted to be. Now we get “White House Down” – a mess of a film that lacks the focus and material to be memorable or even slightly worth watching.

“White House Down” is a bad movie. It’s filled with one contrivance after another and it hasn’t an original bone in its entire 130 life-draining minutes. I actually had to look up the running time because it felt like a 3 hour movie. It’s slow, laborious, and director Roland Emmerich never seems to know when to pull the plug. It would be fine if the story was engaging or the action was exhilarating. Unfortunately it isn’t either of those things, and an action movie that lacks excitement already has one strike against it.


The story is pretty basic. Channing Tatum plays John Cale, A US Capitol police officer with aspirations of joining the President’s Secret Service team. He’s a divorced father on the outs with his daughter Emily (Joey King). So he tries to win her over by taking her to the White House where he is interviewing for a position. Unfortunately he picks a day when a group of politically correct terrorists take control of the White House, kill a bunch of people, unveil their master plan, yada yada yada. I think you get the drift. Jaime Foxx plays President James Sawyer and forms the film’s ‘buddy cop’ team with Tatum. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a Secret Service head. Jason Clarke, James Woods, Richard Jenkins, and Lance Reddick are also present.

For the most part the performances are terrible. Tatum is as unconvincing as ever and his attempts at being a cool macho-type don’t work. Jaimee Foxx probably gives the worst performance. At times he shows slight bits of believability but then he destroys it with some goofy line or ridiculous delivery. Jason Clarke runs around like a madman and seems wildly miscast. Reddick is laugh-out-loud bad as a stiff and grunting General. Gyllenhaal may give the best performance of the group but even she is eventually smothered by the weak material.


As bad as the performances are it’s the script that is the biggest problem. It’s hard to believe that James Vanderbilt, the man who wrote “Zodiac” from 2007, penned this garbage. The jokes are hokey, the reveals are predictable, and the dialogue is sometimes painful to endure. And then there is Roland Emmerich who has a history with inflated underachieving action pictures. He misses nearly every target he aims for. He drags scenes out too long. He wallows in corny melodrama. And the action (his bread and butter) falls flat. With the exception of one sequence, which entertains despite its silliness, Emmerich’s action is repetitive, hackneyed, and not the least bit exciting.

I do get the argument that “White House Down” isn’t aspiring to new things and it’s just trying to be an old-school action romp. Heck I used that same defense with “Olympus Has Fallen”. But this movie stretches my tolerance level for dopey dialogue, dull action, and poor filmmaking in general. None of the characters have appeal and the movie is littered with poor performances. This was a $150 million mess and I have to believe Columbia Pictures could have gotten a better movie with that kind of money.


40 thoughts on “REVIEW: “White House Down”

  1. Olympus Has Fallen, despite maybe taking its source-material a bit too seriously, was one I definitely liked a bit more. However, I do have to say that this one surely had its moments of pure excitement and fun.

  2. Nice review. I’m planning on checking this out at some point – most people seemed to hate it as much as you, but I’ve heard a few arguments that it’s one of those smart-dumb-films. I’ll have to see it myself and make my mind up 🙂

    • Yes there are those who did like this movie. It does try to be humorous but I never found it to be funny at all. And the action (a major component to the film) was stale. And then the performances…my gosh they’re terrible.

  3. Nice review. I thought this was bad but somewhat enjoyable (at least Emmerich didn’t try to over-dramatize the material like in 2012 or Godzilla). Still an awful movie though and a blatant rip-off of Die Hard.

  4. Wow, that’s a very low score. I can see your points, but I actually had a fun time with it. Like I stated in my review that this movie was like Olympus Has Fallen with clown shoes on 😉

  5. Interesting choice of review for V-day, Keith 😉 Ahah, well I only want to see one ‘White House blowing up’ movie a year and since I’ve seen Olympus Has Fallen, I have no desire to see this one. Looks like I made the right decision.

    In any case, have a blessed Valentine weekend, Keith!

    • LOLOL!!! I didn’t even think about that! “White House Down” certainly doesn’t adhere to any normal Valentines theme, does it! You really cracked me up and I needed a good chuckle today!

      Back at ya Ruth. Hope you guys have a great V-Day weekend too.

      • Ha..ha.. no that’s cool man, who says you have to post something romantic on V-day? I did make a list though, it’s been long overdue and today seems to be a perfect day to post it 😀

        Have a great weekend to you too, enjoy The LEGO Movie!

      • Oh we will. My kiddos are giddy as can be and it sounds like a fun movie. Of course I just love family outings like this. I have to work for a while tomorrow but what a good way to end the day.

  6. I was a bit curious for this one but after reading your review I am happy for not waisting my time watching it. I thought taht Jamie Foxx and Chaning Tatum as main actors was a good choice but appearently it wasn’t enough to turn “White House Down” into a good action movie. Great review!

  7. Wow, think this might check in as the lowest rating I’ve seen you dish out so far, but I can believe it. Roland Emmerich has had a track record of trying my patience before so when I learned that there would be two near-identical films about the White House being destroyed, I picked the *slightly* better of the two films. I didn’t like Olympus Has Fallen at all myself, and I can’t imagine what I would have done to this one in a review! 😉

    • LOL. Spare yourself Tom! SPARE YOURSELF!!!!!

      As for low scores, actually 2014 provided only my second 0.5 star review. Grown Ups 2. Sighhhhh…

      If you’re curious click on the review vault link. There a few more real stinkers I’ve tackled.

      • Oh my goodness!!! You put yourself through that thing?!! Well, that settles that, then. You, clearly are a more dedicated filmgoer than I! Haha. I’ll get on to those in a bit, then. This review was filled with righteous vitriol, can’t wait to read a 0.5.

  8. Pingback: » Movie Review – 10,000 BC Fernby Films

  9. I have never noticed that it ran for over two hours – as I am thoroughly engrossed in the story whenever I watch it. I found the action scenes excellent, the story good with some unexpected twists and turns. An entertaining flick.
    But to each their own.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. I haven’t seen it since first writing this review, but to be honest I haven’t had any desire to. It just didn’t work for me unfortunately.

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