Earlier in the year there was ‘Olympus Has Fallen’, the Gerald Butler/Aaron Eckhart action film which did the whole terrorist in the White House thing before that of ‘WHITE HOUSE DOWN’. ‘Olympus’ had a more infamous history coming to screen. Trying to beat Sony’s ‘White House Down’ before it got released, Millennium film producer Avi Lerner got funding for that film at Cannes 2011, by using the underhand tactic of placing a billboard in the middle of the festival with Butler’s face on it before even he actually signed on*. According to a good friend of mine, Neale Hall ‘Olympus’ was a strangely political film, which actually saw Butler beating the foreign terrorists up with the bust of George Washington. Of course this is a far more open and wider affair, directed by Roland Emmerich with Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Jason Clarke, Joey King, Richard Jenkins and Michael Murphy.
With the earlier in the year success of ‘Olympus’ despite this being in works before that project came about, the film had the shackles of trying to show audiences that this isn’t the same movie – which is essentially ‘Die Hard’ in the White House. This ‘Die Hard’ aesthetic is noticeable by the white shirt clad, all-American white collar worker (trying to do right by his family) Tatum doing a ‘With A Vengeance’ team up with Obama like president Jamie Foxx. You do think why the ‘Die Hard’ franchise has not gone down this root. Breaking through its clear influences this is after all a Roland Emmerich film. His usual directorial hallmarks are there. There is a Bill Pullman like president in this actually fighting the baddies (like in ‘Independence Day’), also his twisted political undertones he has running throughout his films (this one is about the cost of war and freedom, but also James Woods strangely Afghanistan character back story, counter balancing Channing Tatum’s one). Emmerich connoisseurs (yes I know a few) might be able to pick up on his specific beats and can add that to their research on the German film maker (I’ve read reports comparing him to Douglas Sirk’s), but there isn’t any Dog character in this though.
James Vanderbilts script is a lot of fun. Every action sequence has a explosion in it, which adds to a strange ‘Looney Tunes’ like vibe with the ACME like approach to it all. It is certainly a script which defies lunacy – presidents are firing Bazookas, car chases and tanks are on the White House lawn, and the White House itself does get taken over by the baddies far too easily. But it works – it doesn’t take itself too seriously, there is some genuine fun to be had with the comedic characters and jokes in this (including the tour guide of the White House and some of the deaths in this). There are some minor issues thought. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character gets little to do at times, there is an over use of Sony products (which is expected as it’s a Sony Columbia Pictures film), the film arguably goes on a little too long and adds a final unnecessary dilemma and there is some bad CGI helicopters and imposing. Still thought this is certainly something you want from a blockbuster action film and if you you’re willing to laugh along with it (or even at it), it can be a highly entertaining experience.
*The title of the film interestingly enough was ‘White House Taken’ on the billboard.