Hoping to get a job for the Secret Service, John Cale uses his interview as an opportunity to bond with his politics obsessed daughter, Emily, by taking her on a tour of the White House. While there, a group of men attack the Capitol Building, then focus their efforts on the White House and President James Sawyer. Being separated from Emily, John frantically tries to find her but then gets caught up in protecting the President. Using his skills as a former Afghanistan veteran, Cale helps President Sawyer to evade capture and sets out to stop the terrorists and save his daughter before it’s too late.
White House Down (2013) – Director: Roland Emmerich
Running Length: 131 mins
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, James Woods
‘White House Down’ is the latest film from director Roland Emmerich, best known for previous movies, ‘Independence Day’, ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ and ‘2012’. The fastest way to describe ‘White House Down’ is to say ‘Die Hard in the White House’. Whether or not this interests you will depend on your tastes, but there is no denying that the terms ‘action-packed’ and ‘high-octane’ are well-earned here and not in a dismissive way. After a well-judged amount of set up whereby we get introduced to the key players, the action shifts with vigour into bullets, bombs and carefully planned terrorism, with one unexpected guy disrupting the plans of all concerned.
The plot line of an everyday man caught up in extreme circumstances and continuously underestimated is one that invariably appeals and Channing Tatum plays this role with charm and believability. Thankfully, he isn’t an unstoppable superhero taking bullets and marching on relentlessly. Similarly Jamie Foxx is well-suited as an honest president who, although initially scared about the real danger he suddenly finds himself in, soon settles in to sparky dialogue and cool attitude. The remaining cast is rounded out nicely and even though the premise and action can get a little silly at times (such as a rather long scene involving the bullet proof presidential car driving round and round the presidential garden whilst getting bombarded with heavy ordnance) it is the well-grounded characters that stop things from getting too dumb.
Although it is easy to dismiss the big explosion action films as intrinsically stupid, it only takes something like the abysmal Die Hard 5 (‘A Good Day To Die Hard’) to prove that there is skill involved in maintaining the right balance. ‘White House Down’ paces itself just right. It isn’t too violent, it isn’t too burdened with plot complications, it isn’t too comedic and it isn’t too obsessed with its own fireballs. Instead, Emmerich has delivered an infectiously entertaining film with broad appeal that we feel will please fans of action throughout the whole family.
IS ‘WHITE HOUSE DOWN’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
Surprisingly for such an action packed movie, there is very little to comment on in terms of unsuitable content for kids. However, there are a few things that parents may wish to be aware of which we will highlight below.
When the Secret Service are attempting to make the President’s approach to the capital secure, several snipers check a nearby building. One of the snipers sees an open window, and switches his view to a thermal image. He then sees a couple lying on a bed in an obviously intimate moment; the sniper laughs and confirms that there is no danger before continuing his search. While it is clear what is happening, it isn’t graphic and the visual of the thermal image only lasts for a second and therefore young children are unlikely to understand the meaning of this scene.
When the Capitol Building is attacked, a bomb explodes and destroys the entire building. While no deaths are seen on camera, it is implied that the majority of the people inside have been killed, including innocent families who are there as tourists; this could affect some children who feel vulnerable to such attacks.
When inside the White House, the terrorists go around shooting anyone who tries to stop them. Very little blood is seen during these killings, however some security guards are killed by hand-held devices being placed on their bodies; they gasp in pain and fall to the floor, dead. This is done very quickly and because of this, it was unclear what these devices actually did to the guards.
When John and his 11-year-old daughter, Emily, are separated, John is held with several other hostages while Emily is left to wander the corridors and sees several people killed by the terrorists; this obviously scares and distresses her. She is very mature for her age and manages to record videos on her phone while she stays hidden. Because Emily is so young and vulnerable, she is very relatable and children who are sensitive to seeing others in distress may be upset by the fact that she is alone in such a dangerous situation.
The main thing that many parents are likely to be concerned about is the frequent cursing and blasphemy throughout the movie. The majority of this is moderate in tone and one strong word is also used.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
‘White House Down’ is a movie which provides exactly what it promises; lots of action, lots of (non-graphic) violence and good camaraderie between its leads, Tatum and Foxx. While there are plenty of issues that can be raised in terms of realism, it is good fun and, thankfully, doesn’t take itself too seriously.
We feel that, depending on how you feel about the excessive use of curse words and blasphemy, the content should be appropriate for most kids aged 10 and over.
- Violence: 3/5 (mostly non-graphic deaths caused by explosions and shootings. One ‘bad’ character has several grenades forced around his neck, the camera focuses on another character as they leave the room as the explosion happens behind them. Some helicopters are attacked by the terrorists and are blown up)
- Emotional Distress: 2/5 (some relatively minor but established characters are killed; one character is thought to be dead which causes distress to another character)
- Fear Factor: 3/5 (the terrorists are ruthless and murder anyone who tries to stop them)
- Sexual Content: 1/5 (some flirting and one woman tells a man she wants a date with him where she expects him to at least get to ‘second base’)
- Bad Language: 5/5
- Dialogue: 2/5 (some threatening language from the terrorists, especially concerning President Sawyer)
- Other notes: Deals with themes of using previously acquired skills to protect the innocent, protecting the people you care about, standing up against those who threaten the safety of others, home grown terrorism and how important the President is to the country.
Words by Mike and Laura Record