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Olympus Has Fallen Into Habit

White House Down (2013)

Reiner Bajo/Columbia Pictures

First things first: Is “White House Down” essentially the same movie as “Olympus Has Fallen”? The answer is a resounding yes. Here you have Channing Tatum standing in for Gerard Butler as the unlikely (read: non-Secret Service) saver of the day. Then you have Jamie Foxx stepping into the Aaron Eckhart role of the incorruptible president of the United States. Richard Jenkins is the Morgan Freeman House speaker/acting president. As Mr. Tatum’s daughter, Joey King here functions as the adolescent liability much like the president’s son in “Olympus” played by Finley Jacobsen.

Beyond the two films’ obviously shared premise of a White House under siege, their villains are similarly motivated by the prospect of controlling America’s nuclear arsenal. Then again, both are basically “Die Hard” set inside the White House, so it’s not like “Olympus” could lay claim to originality just for hitting the multiplexes three months earlier. The most pronounced difference between the two movies is a political one: Whereas the antagonists in “Olympus” were North Koreans, in “White House Down” they are radical right-wingers, racist zealots, wanton hackers, cracked soldiers and the entire military industrial complex at large. So which of the two you would find more enjoyable is dependent entirely on whether you’re a hardcore xenophobe or a hardcore liberal.

The only other marked difference is that “Olympus” is more packed with action while “White House Down” is more humorous. Since “Olympus” made quite a splash at the box office, one has to wonder about the timing of “White House Down.” One would hope that the moviegoing masses’ collective attention span isn’t that short. In spite of the aforementioned lack of originality, James Vanderbilt’s screenplay works like a well-oiled machine. The one or two gaping plot holes are effectively glossed over by director Roland Emmerich. He is evidently expert at blowing up 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But just in case you’ve forgotten, he’s not above making a pointed reference to “Independence Day.” In addition to credibly cementing himself as a man of action, Mr. Tatum here also establishes himself as a Harrison Ford-type family man. While none of the tentpoles this summer are doozies, this one is at least something worth cheering about.


Opens on June 28 in the United States and on Sept. 6 in Britain.

Directed by Roland Emmerich; written by James Vanderbilt; director of photography, Anna J. Foerster; edited by Adam Wolfe; music by Thomas Wander and Harald Kloser; production design by Kirk M. Petruccelli; costumes by Lisy Christl; produced by Bradley J. Fischer, Mr. Kloser, Mr. Vanderbilt, Larry Franco and Laeta Kalogridis; released by Columbia Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 11 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 by M.P.A.A. and 12A by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Channing Tatum (John Cale), Jamie Foxx (President Sawyer), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Finnerty), Jason Clarke (Stenz), Richard Jenkins (Raphelson), Joey King (Emily), James Woods (Walker) and Lance Reddick (General Caulfield).


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