White House Down suffers from what we call “Second Movie Syndrome”. This happens when 2 movies with similar premise are released within months of each other causing the later movie to suffer. But, Director of 2012 (2009), The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and Independence Day (1996) Roland Emmerich, still manages to give White House Down its own appeal whether or not you’ve seen Olympus Has Fallen.

Strictly speaking, the storyline’s similar to Antoine Fuqua’s film that was released 3 months earlier and made about S$124 million for Millennium Films. Here’s a table for easy comparison:

Olympus Has Fallen

Released: Mar 22, 2013

Director: Antoine Fuqua, music video director and director of Training Day (2001) and Tears Of The Sun (2003).

White House Down

Released: Jun 27, 2013
Director: Roland Emmerich, famous for large-scale disaster films 2012 (2009), The Day After Tomorrow(2004) and Independence Day (1996), 2 of which already took down the White House.

White House is attacked with:

An airplane, which opens fire on it. North Koreans take over.

White House is attacked with:

A bomb. Taken over by tattooed Eastern Europeans, an angry super hacker, extremists and pissed-off patriots, led by American Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke).

Terrorists had help from:

A treasonous ex-US Secret Service agent turned private military contractor, played by Dylan McDermott

Terrorists had help from:

Almost retired/retired Head of Secret Service, Martin Walker, played by Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award winner James Woods.

Hero: Beefy Gerard Butler, former head of secret service.

He helps get the President out.

Hero: Beefy John Cale, (Channing Tatum) a Police Officer and Secret Service reject.

He protects the President of the United States and his own daughter.

Who takes over for the Mr. President?:

Speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman) becomes acting president.

Who takes over for the Mr. President?: [spoiler alert]

VP Hammond (Michael Murphy) who is then killed within half an hour of his “election”, and then “Mr Speaker” (Richard Jenkins) become acting president.

Perhaps to some it’s too similar for comfort, however the main target of the film turns first from the President to the White House, and politics manic Emily (Cale’s daughter), to the nuclear launch command keycode that the only the Pres. has control of. With its ever-changing focus, Cale ends up having to save his daughter Emily, the democracy of America, and the world.

Critics can say that White House Down is not like Emmerich with its seemingly mild danger scenarios – a car chase around the White House courtyard with a few loud explosions and even the president shooting down his own gates, or a little girl hiding in the White House curtains taking videos for her YouTube channel – when compared to his other films in which there were literal earth-shattering booms and world wide terror and fear ensues (see above for his 3 well known doomsday films). In this film however, the only threat is a cold, calculating bad guy who’s always in control. With James Woods’ commanding voice and evil sneer, he pulls off the role of the revenge-seeking ex Head of Secret Service, Martin Walker, well.

While similar to Olympus, White House Down is also guilty of parrotingother films like 1988 action film Die Hard with its lone cop versus terrorists theme, and Air Force One (1997) starring Harrison Ford where terrorists take control of the plane that the President and his officials are onandtake White House hostages.

To make up for the lack of originality, the 2 main stars of White House Down easily charm audiences with their humorous antics. You might remember that 46-year-old multiple award winner (and by multiple we mean, Grammy Awards, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards… You name it, he’s got it) and Django Unchained (2012) star Jamie Foxx started his career as a stand-up comedian.

In one scene, President Sawyer is missing 1 shoe after he uses it to jam the lift gears, preventing him and Cale from being smushed into the ceiling of a lift shaft. Upon escaping the group of terrorists, they hide out in the president’s bedroom and Sawyer picks out an identical pair of leather shoes only to put them back for a pair of Jordans instead. And newfound bodyguard Cale approves; they’re way better for all the running around they’ll be doing.

And 21 Jump Street (2012) actor Tatum, who’s funny and energetic is at ease with his character, Cale, who’s an easy going spirit, wrapped in a bundle of muscles who happens to be a sharp shooter. Put together with equally witty President Sawyer, they gives audiences scenes like the one in the White House kitchen where Pres. Sawyer fumbles with putting on his glasses while Cale waits, struggling to hold one baddie in a choke-hold, asking for the pres. to shoot while he’s still got a hold of him. The audience can’t help but erupt into laughter at that, and the bewildered look Cale gives him.

Tatum also pulls off the trying-to-be-better-dad role very well as he “realised that I wasn’t her hero anymore. So I wanted to try to protect the man that is” when sharing with the President about his politics-crazy daughter and why he decided to join the Secret Service. Together, Tatum and Foxx deliver a brighter and more enjoyable film compared to Olympus’ darker and more violent narrative.

Not to spoil the whole movie, but there’s a really interesting plot twist that takes place in the film, so pay attention!

All in all, White House Down delivers heart-thumping action, family conflict, humour and even a bit of an emotional scene towards the end when Emily does her bit to save everyone with her talent for flag twirling.

As a bonus, while the President and Cale run from floor to floor, wing to wing and even to the tennis courts, roof and basement tunnels of the White House trying to evade the men trying to hunt them down, you get a spectacular tour of the White House complete with trivia like the fact that it has 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 6 levels in the Residence, thrown in by Emily and White House tour guide Donnie (Nicolas Wright). That, alone, has to be worth the ticket of admission.


Rating: 3.5/5

Release Date: Jun 27

Runtime: 2 hrs 11 mins

Language: English

Censorship Rating: PG13

Genre: Action / Adventure

Director: Roland Emmerich

Main Actors: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, James Woods