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When Potus Had to Pack and Leave

Roland Emmerich is back again at what he does best: blowing things up spectacularly and relentlessly. We are in the safest house in the world,shrieks a guy

Written by Shubhra Gupta | Published: July 20, 2013 4:34:24 am

White House Down

DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich

CAST: Channing Tatum,Jamie Foxx,Maggie Gyllenhaal, Joey King,

James Woods

***1/2

Roland Emmerich is back again at what he does best: blowing things up spectacularly and relentlessly. We are in the safest house in the world,shrieks a guy. Uh huh. Not. White House,the seat of the President of the United States of America,is under a terrorist attack. Masked gunmen carrying rocket launchers are rampaging though the grand interiors,with the Prez (Foxx) hiding out with a wannabe secret service agent (Tatum) in one corner,and his daughter (King) being held hostage in another.

For over two hours,we career up and down the White House crevices as Channing Tatum reprises the Die Hard Bruce Willis,single-handedly fighting off the bad guys and staving off World War III in a blood-stained singlet,and a singularly set expression. The plot is a marvellous series of coincidences,which would befit a Hindi movie. Cale just happens to be at the White House for an interview for a Secret Service post. His sulking little girl is along because he wants to get back into her good books. His tough interviewer (Gyllenhaal) used to know him in college. And of course,the attack happens when Cale and kid are still in the building: he has brawn and she has brains,and of course,it is a winning combination.

White House Down isn’t as bad as I thought it would be,given Emmerich’s previous outings,a mix of noisy creature features or disaster flicks (Independence Day,2012,The Patriot). It has some resonances: Foxx as the Black President who declares,“I just want to make a difference” could well be an echo of Obama. President Sawyer wants to yank American troops from the Middle East. The arms cartels and their moles in the defence machinery in high places in the US administration are mighty cheesed off: what,no more kickbacks? Out comes the resentful father (Woods) who lost his son in Afghanistan,and the guy who gets the biggest cut on arms deals,and the sneering fellows with enough arsenal to bring the White House down.

This is not the kind of movie which does nuance. So the President is gracious in the face of adversity: he is also afraid of heights (see,he’s just this regular guy who chews nicotine gum when he’s tense). The goodfella on the rescue mission knows how to use guns and his fists effectively,and is capable of uttering simple sentences. The humour is clichéd and broad,too. An evil hacker simpers and listens to music. A guy who leads tours in the White House says funny things. The lead attacker rues the death of a fellow gunman (see,even bad guys have feelings). Most importantly,the movie tells us that the secret passages through which Kennedy would sneak in his lady loves were not a myth. And the little girl is right up there as the annoying pre-teen who uses technology to sneak out the dope on the attackers.

There is a certain comfort you can derive from these predictable mega-budget monsters. Trouble is,it goes on too long. It has several climactic moments,but every time you ready for the exit,the film bounces back again for the next round. And the next explosion. In the last 20 minutes,military drones,helicopters,bulletproof limos,snarling armymen,ambitious politicos,petrified hostages and media hordes are all running around like headless chickens around the White House,and you’ve lost count of the blasts. Much before it happened,I was ready for the end.

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