Fun, but one White House attack movie was probably more than enough
Olympus Has Fallen-lite
This year’s second assault on the White House pitches us Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx and James Woods and a whole load of terrorist mayhem, delivered with all the bombastic insanity you would only expect from disaster maestro Roland ‘Independence Day’ Emmerich.Unlike the considerably better, take-itself-seriously Olympus Has Fallen, which was far more classic Die Hard in spirit, White House Down is much more lightweight – for good and for bad – and instead appears to be prepared to deliver unabashed fun at every turn. On the plus side, Channing Tatum makes for a suitably charismatic everyman hero, and takes to the action – and wit – with aplomb; the set-pieces are expectedly grand (the effects alone are far more than the modestly-budgeted Olympus), and the momentum is somehow largely sustained even for the arguably overlong runtime. On the other hand, Jamie Foxx takes his ‘hip’ president far too casually, James Woods doesn’t get enough meat to sink his teeth into when it comes to his sorely underdeveloped element in the proceedings.
The other big names are largely frivolous cameos (what the hell are Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jason Clarke doing?!). The PG-13 / 12A rating also cripples any potential action impact, with this bloodless romp simply lacking the requisite impact, especially when pitted against the far more suitably brutal Olympus. Still, comparisons aside (which is hard to do in a year where we really didn’t need two Die Hard in the White House movies), White House Down is a pretty enjoyable ride in its own right, often bordering on outright parody but also, sometimes, just about self-aware enough to make for a nice little tongue-in-cheek actioner.
Big, unpretentiously dumb, and pretty good fun.
Blockbuster VisualsHitting UK Region Free Blu-ray with a stunning, easily reference-quality video presentation, White House Down lands with a 1080p/AVC High Definition rendition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen, and there really is next to nothing to complain about.
Detail is outstanding, brimming with the utmost clarity whether it’s on the longer, often effects-layered set-pieces, the mid-range conflicts which show off superb background textures, weapon detail and clothing weaves, or the close-ups, that get right to the blood, sweat, hairs and pores of the main players.
Another fantastic, demo-worthy video presentation from Sony.
Colours are rich and broad, promoted through the lush green lawns, bright blue skies, and deep mahogany furniture, not to mention the many shades of dirtied grey that the white stone building itself undergoes over the duration. Blacks levels are strong, and allow for excellent shadow detail, leaving the darker sequences just as well resolved as the brighter ones. Without any digital defects, edge enhancement, excess DNR, banding, blocking or fluctuating noise, this is yet another outstanding video presentation from SPHE.
Bombastic AudioThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also outstanding, promoting the bombastic soundtrack with welcome thunder, but also noteworthy precision. Dialogue keeps its head above the water through even the noisiest deluge, coming at you clearly and coherently from across the fronts and centre channels; the score, however, generic, is suitably rousing and helps maintain tension throughout the proceedings; but it’s the effects which really stand out, as you would only expect from this kind of action-driven blockbuster.
Outstanding audio, as you would perhaps only expect from an Emmerich film.
From gunship assaults to .50 mounted guns; from rocket launchers to tanks; from assault rifles to silenced weaponry, the track caters for – and outright embraces – every different weapon-based sound, balancing heavy artillery and deafening explosions, with quieter nuance and more subtle atmospheric touches. Surround use is excellent, the LFE channel has plenty to say throughout the proceedings, and this is an outstanding track through and through, demo and reference quality from start to finish.
Fitful FeaturettesAside from an extended and quite amusing Gag Reel, and some standard Previews, the Extras content is entirely Featurette-based. Over a dozen of them. Almost all of them are less than 5 minutes in length, which often leaves them feeling a little insubstantial but, on the other hand, they cover almost every element of the production, leaving the overall effect not wholly unlike a comprehensive documentary.
13 Featurettes make up the majority of the extras, covering all the bases.
We look at the cast with A Dynamic Duo and Meet the Insiders; the Presidential limo with The Beast; the stunts with Men of Action; weapons in The Full Arsenal; the pitch with The Inside Story; the sets with Presidential Treatment; the cinematography with Lights, Camera, Heart-Pumping Action; the director with Roland Emmerich – Upping the Ante; one of the key set-pieces with Crashing the Oval Office; and the finale of the same set-piece with Drowning the Beast; the White House replication with Recreating the White House; and some VFX Breakdowns.
Second PlaceIf you saw, and loved, Olympus Has Fallen, you might find the changes in tone – from serious to lightweight and breezy – and in terms of content – from brutally violent to PG-13 crippled, will be too jarring. Certainly there really is no reason for two Die-Hard-in-the-White-House movies in one year, but, even allowing for the existence of both, White House Down falls into second place. But it’s still pretty damn entertaining. Big, dumb, fun, with a suitably charismatic star turn from Channing Tatum, and more than enough over-the-top spectacle from blockbuster-veteran Emmerich, White House Down is never less than a fun ride.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get outstanding video and audio, as well as a scattershot of Featurettes which amounts to an hour of Behind the Scenes footage, leaving this a must-have purchase for fans of the film, and a decent enough rental for those who like Tatum, Emmerich, or big, dumb blockbuster actioners. If you’ve seen – and enjoyed – Olympus, then you may need to tread more cautiously, other than in terms of sheer scale, WHD simply cannot compete.
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