For as proud as the USA is about the White House and its status as a global monument of power, do we ever love to see it destroyed. In the Roland Emmerich-verse, the White House is a perpetual victim, luckily rebuilt after catastrophic alien invasion and inclement weather doomed the president’s homestead in the director’s prior work.
In White House Down, tanks surround the building after it falls under control of anarchists. Even if they gain access to nuclear launch codes, we have tanks. In our military marches, over fences and onto the White House lawn, a group of background citizens providing a standing ovation to this burst of aggression. ‘Merica.
Sometimes, movies do it right. In competition, the “other” White House assault flick Olympus Has Fallen drudges to an abysmally dark finish, forgetting a time out to acknowledge the tremendous display of stupidity. There, Gerard Butler is a terrorism wrecking machine designed to bowl over villains with red, white, and blue bullets on a quest to save the president.
White House Down lets President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) grab a rocket launcher to aid in his own escape, this after he carefully dons a pair of Air Jordans. Clumsily, Sawyer bops his impromptu guard and driver Cale (Channing Tatum) in the head with the rocket. It’s a slip up which becomes a comedic, acknowledged smirk of idiocy which sets this escapism piece on proper grounding.
Cale exists to punch scraped together bad guys while wearing a sleeveless shirt. A system of fatherhood is in place to drive his actions, planting Tatum as a new age John McClane. Writer James Vanderbilt and director Roland Emmerich combine forces to craft a revitalization of the ’80s action flick, pushed into production with gun toting villains and corrupt politicians. Scripting is hopelessly shallow; lines are fierce between hero and foe.
Were the timing different, White House Down would appear to be parodying Olympus, much like the great volcano wars between Dante’s Peak and Volcano or the doomsday shuffle pitting Deep Impact against Armageddon. In these clashes of cinematic super powers and absurd financial overhead, one tends to carry lasting impact. Gerard Butler running down hallways is nondescript. The leader of the free world causing a ruckus with a rocket launcher? Audiences won’t forget, no matter their reason.
White House Down amplifies itself with continual twists regarding its narrative, as if the film would ever succeed on groomed story. Tatum and Foxx become human yo-yos as they bounce between floors searching for an escape, which is ultimately all that matters. It is a simpleton end product after a mammoth cinematic undertaking behind-the-scenes which leaped from page to screen knowing what it was.
Yes the film is inherently dopey and yes this saturation of buffoonish flag waving cinema is tiresome. Then again, White House Down proves we have some resolve and sense a humor about ourselves. We can laugh in the face of absurdity and at the idea of a German born film director smashing our monuments with such glee. Maybe it’s wrong, but it sure is asinine fun.
White House Down is a production of digital cinematography and rarely fond of light. Hard shadows are common and lend weight to black levels which take an early lead in their dominance. Shadow details are notable in transition where available, although design often scrunches down into a minimum framework of visible images.
Color grading is fond of orange, the White House blazed with a touch of cinematic warmth. Underground bunkers are punctured with blue to complete the rounds of current post production decision making. Sprinkle orange, sprinkle blue, and your film becomes modern. Tiring cannot begin to convey the suffocation of primaries.
While stuttering with patchiness in medium shots, White House Down is grizzled enough to push the goods in close. Facial definition soars without any harmful encoding quirks embedded in the video. One brief flirtation with banding is passed over immediately as close-ups begin a consistent quality display. Special effects laden exteriors keep a steady visual frame too.
The Arri Alexa will fend off some noise, battling a bit when the images turns up the haze of smoke. Fires begin sprouting across the complex and areas of the screen become adorned with source artifacts. White House Down is often too fast for any long term flubs and edits turn into cures. Overall, it’s satisfying video.
Sprouting sonic wings early and bolting into service to crush the LFE, White House Down’s design is an overload of activity. Downtime is spent relishing in the engines of helicopters or building up city exteriors naturally. Action pops around 30 minutes in with an explosion pronounced enough to create miniature shockwaves from the subwoofer.
Action overload produces bits of everything, from crashing vehicles (air or land) to massive machine guns which fire off rounds with enormous impact. A chase scene on the lawn ratchets up tension with an exaggeration of engines while carrying what will surely stand as a famous rocket launcher and tank blast. Explosions happen and White House Down locks into 90 minutes of rambunctious idiocy loaded with raw audio performance.
There is more than simple escalation of LFE and aggressive surround placement. Gunfire happens in elevator shafts or closed rooms where the sound takes on entirely different qualities. It becomes unique and proves interesting rather than firing off generic rounds. Elements balance and dialog is pure to maximize the disc’s summer movie credentials.
Thirteen featurettes sit on the disc, certainly impressive in numbers for the rear of the case, yet so chintzy as to be of little value. With the singular exception of Recreating the White House at nine minutes, nothing runs longer than five. These blips of information remain stuffy in their promotion and useless in their informative qualities. While flashes of positive info are scattered around, it becomes work to find material of consequence, and some repeat interviews to fill space. Watch the gag reel and just move on.