wogma rating: Watch if you have nothing better to do (?)
Roland Emmerich takes doltishness to a new level with his own White-House-under-attack film. Doused with cheese, imbecility trumps all in a film where you actually end up feeling sorry for America at the end of it, never mind the fact that its jingoistic patriotism comes to its rescue after all.Read more
Unbelievable, really. Barely a few months after Antoine Fuqua’s Gerard Butler-starrer, Olympus Has Fallen, disgraced the big screen with its cheesy, jingoistic, all-American, guiltily indulgent ludicrousness, Roland Emmerich gives us White House Down - a film with, yes, almost the exact same plot, just with the asininity up several notches.
The White House is taken over by terrorists, as simple as that. At least Olympus Has Fallen tried to maintain a level of respect towards the constitution and the office of the President of the United States of America. White House Down, though, is all-out idiocy of an astonishing level. It dials up absolutely everything idiotic about Olympus, adds in more than a few puerile moments of its own, and serves us a harebrained film that trips over its own preposterousness while trying to outrun its own half-wittedness.
This is the kind of film where a lollipop-sucking computer hacker gets to work only after setting up a Beethoven symphony, and where an affable White House tour guide miraculously manages to invoke Arnold Schwarzenegger when a shotgun comes his way. Now Roland Emmerich has never been known to make particularly intelligent films anyway, preferring to use his $100-million-plus budgets to blow things up or making things come crashing down.
Incidentally, with his last film Anonymous, made on a measly $30 million budget, it seemed like he was beginning to tilt slightly towards some substance in his films. That one was, for me, his best film to date despite it being just as outlandish as his usual work. But he’s back with big-budget vengeance and how!
Channeling his inner Abbas & Mastan, Emmerich packs the plot in with a twist a minute, completely avoids any space-time coherence, provides ace military-grade stealth skills to an eleven-year old girl, takes special care to ensure that none of the thousand-odd bullets fired at our heroes ever touches them and packs the film with inane humour throughout its runtime; so much so that I’m hard-pressed to not slot this film as a comedy. It also pretends to be a coming of paternal-age drama at times, and it is here when it becomes particularly hard to not gag.
The real travesty of this film is how some really fine actors are given such thankless characters to enact. Jamie Foxx as POTUS collects every ounce of Barack Obama’s poise and statesmanship, so that he can chew it all up like a giant bubblegum and spit it out onto the front lawn of the White House, ensuring that he carries absolutely none of it into the film. He’d have made for an amusing sidekick janitor at the White House in another film. As the ‘leader of the free world’ though - as he once refers to himself in this one - he does best when he isn’t on screen.
Jason Clarke, coming off the back of three terrific turns in Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty and The Great Gatsby, is saddled with a negative role far beneath his talent and presence. Maggie Gyllenhaal goes so over-the-top that you wish more than once that she had stayed dead after The Dark Knight. Channing Tatum as an aspiring Secret Service agent who’s trying his best to impress his daughter, offers up a measure of macho schoolboy charm, but there is only so much he can do to keep a straight face during all of what’s happening around him.
White House Down is the kind of film that you stop taking seriously very soon, hoping that it will turn out to at least be a brisk, fun film. Alas, it rarely becomes anything more than a good exercise at testing just how many synonyms of the word ‘moronic’ you can think of.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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