Roland Emmerich seems determined to blow up every single thing he comes across. White House Down continues the director's legacy of destruction in cinema that includes Independence Day, 2012, and Universal Soldier. This time around he brings along Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Joey King, and Jason Clarke for a ride that even the famous Oval Office will not be able to withstand.
Officer John Cale (Tatum) has worked his way through the ranks from enlisting in the military to joining the Capitol Police, in hopes of earning a position on the President's secret service detail. When an opportunity finally presents itself and he is invited to the White House for an interview, he decides to bring along his daughter Emily (King) who has been obsessed with politics for as long as she can remember.
After the interview goes a little differently than Cale thought it would, he decides to take his daughter on the White House tour where a chance meeting with President James Sawyer (Foxx) becomes the highlight of her young life. While all of this is taking place, a plan is being hatched by some unsavory individuals to take control of the White House and all of the secrets it holds inside. The first strike nearly takes down the entire Capitol Building and forces move in to quickly capture the both the President the tour group to use as hostages during the siege.
Of course, this is the same tour that Channing Tatum is on so he quickly swings into action John McClane style although, unlike the iconic Die Hard hero, he does manage to keep his shoes on during all the mayhem. As bullets fly and body counts pile up, Emmerich does a pretty decent job of keeping the story focused while hitting most of the right notes that he has learned will lead to box office success.
Where he falls short is in developing characters that the audience would really begin to care about and root for as the story unfolds. Part of this was unfortunate casting as, while Tatum does an admirable job, he just doesn't have the chops to be a strong leading man that can carry a picture of this magnitude. Another casting misstep was putting Jamie Foxx in the role of President of the United States. Sure, he's a solid actor that can do just about anything, but he still has too youthful of a look to be believable as leader of the free world.
On a brighter note, the still very young Joey King turns in yet another great performance as Tatum's daughter Emily who shows off more personality in her left eyebrow than most of the rest of the cast put together. After already appearing in movies like Dark Knight Rises and Oz the Great and Powerful, she is well on her way to what will hopefully be a long career if that's what she chooses to do. Outside of that, the rest of the movie's focus is, of course, on gunfire, explosions, helicopters, and White House lawn car chases.
I really didn't have any problem with White House Down as it mostly accomplishes what I wanted it to even if it is predictable and features actors that clearly weren't hired for their acting ability. There are more than enough special effects and all are very impressive although not blown out to the eye popping size and scale of Emmerich's other features, but the story also doesn't call for it so no big deal.
If you like your action movies heavy on action and short on pretty much anything else, then you will have no problem watching this even if it isn't something that will stick with you for very long.