Thursday, July 4, 2013

Selma Ruins White House Down

This pretty much sums up the good parts of the movie.
Full disclosure: It's really hard for me to judge this movie well, because I'm, shall we say, very familiar with the US gov. I know how things work on a day to day basis, and how people there act. And if you were wondering how much of this movie is accurate, the answer is none of it. NONE. OF. IT.

But does that really matter for the enjoyment of general audiences? I'm not sure, but I about choked on popcorn when I heard a Secret Service woman say that the way she managed such long hours was, "Coffee and patriotism, sir." Sorry guys, but the only way you would ever hear someone say something like that for real is if they were being heavily sarcastic.

Roland Emmerich's government officials are really, really nice. A Congressman gets slammed into by a janitor and spills coffee over himself (oh and is walking alone? uh, no) and just tells the guy to be more careful. But that's not necessarily a bad thing - hell, I would love to see more officials that cared this much, or this openly. If we're going to be inaccurate, I'd rather see this.

White House Down isn't a very good movie. But it isn't a bad one either - well, okay, let's not be too hasty here. White House Down is a not very good movie that isn't painful to watch. I laughed out loud at a couple parts, and there are a few moments with actual dramatic weight. The movie's biggest strength is its actors - pretty much everyone in this movie can actually act, and Channing Tatum is so damn likable that you're ready to plead to the heavens to intercede on his behalf. The girl that plays his daughter is shockingly good, especially for a thirteen year old, and that's really important since the dramatic effectiveness of several key points relies entirely on her.

The movie is effectively divided into two parts: the inside workings of the White House caper that we spend with Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, and the external workings of the frantic government.

Being official! Doing government things! Serious face!
The government parts center around the endlessly soft-spoken Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is... ehhhh? She's not a bad actress, but she doesn't have the charisma to stand up next to Tatum and Foxx. And I can only assume that she received some very odd direction, because she's doing her quiet almost lisp thing even when she's frantically "shouting" down the phone about missiles being deployed. Plus, it doesn't help that she's surrounded by might-as-well-be-nameless stereotypes, like the solemn General who yells, "Somebody has to be able to tell me something about this situation!"

It's a heck of a lot easier to sit through Tatum and Foxx snarking at each other and sneaking around the White House. Tatum takes blow after blow after blow and staggers around fairly convincingly. Foxx is good, but almost a little too slick for the role of a humble, peace-minded President. I get the feeling that Foxx is probably pretty impressed with himself in real life, and not a good enough actor to compensate for that here.

"Roland. Roland, are you... are you sure this is the script?
Oh. I see. No, uh, it's... fine."
White House Down has two main flaws (aside from the debatable authenticity one).

First, Roland Emmerich still clearly thinks that his audience is stupid. When I think he's cluing us in on something, he'll then pick up the clue and beat me over the head with it until I fall down unconscious. And secondly, the movie suffers from tonal whiplash like woah. Even people that usually roll their eyes at my overanalysis agreed that the movie bounced back and forth from ~serious crying moment~ to ~hilarious one-liners~ so that you weren't sure how seriously you were supposed to take things.

One final note: Roland Emmerich believes himself to be something of a political commentator. This is unfortunate, because he has all the nuanced sociopolitical understanding of Fern Gully. Roland thinks that peace is good and that all the countries of the world should just stop shooting at each other and sign treaties so that we can hold hands and sing songs forever. He focuses on messages and events rather than characters in order to KO the audience with his opinions, and fails to understand the fundamental paradox that every decent artist knows: the more personal something is, the more universal it is.

The politics of White House Down can perhaps best be summed up by the moment in the movie where Tatum's daughter asks the President how he can expect all of the countries of the Middle East to work together for peace despite years of feuds and different goals. President Foxx says, "I don't know, but I have to believe!"

Maybe Roland can believe in a message that simple, but I can't.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know who rates these movies, but all the English movies are rated as good or above average. This movie is pathetic and horrendous. The reviewer should actually learn about good cinema before giving these ratings.