- Released Internationally on 21/03/13
- Released in Malta by KRS on 08/05/13
Preview (as published 01/05/13 in VIDA Magazine)
It happens every few years or so - Antz/A Bug’s Life, Deep Impact/Armageddon, The Illusionist/The Prestige. This year we will get two similar films portraying enemies taking over the White House. This is the first. The instantly recognizable building is of course mostly know for what it represents, and has been an extra in films for decades - taken over by mutants in X-Men 2, a crime scene in Murder at 1600, and of course being blown to smithereens in Independence Day. This time around, Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) is the president, Morgan Freeman is the speaker, and Gerard Butler (300) is the action hero who will save the day.
3-word review: Entertaining American clichés.
America has its quirks. I love how they go to great lengths to hype up and worship their institutions, their country, their star spangled banner. No harm in being patriotic, I guess. But then, when the aura surrounding the flag and the president has been cranked up to the max, they all flock to the cinema to see it all blown up or jeopardised. It's all harmless fun, of course, and I'll admit to having a soft spot for these sort of films - all-out action films, with not a single bit of science-fiction in sight. No superheroes, no paranormal phenomena, no fantasy, no aliens. Just good old-fashioned terrorism and disaster, with lots of guns, hostages and wreckage, lots of people saying 'Mr President' in urgent tones, and lots of codes and protocols we the public have never heard of and which probably don't exist anyway.
This is definitely one of those films. It reminded me a lot of Wolfgang Petersen's entertaining Air Force One from over a decade ago. That was fun, and there was nothing too fancy about it - just ordinary people in extraordinary situations, and the president of the USA thrown into the mix. Just like in that film, this one does a decent job of introducing the main players and showing us the president's family life and inner circle, and this of course so that later, when everything is at stake, the human drama will unfold with more depth. There's also a few no-nonsense fist fights, despite the mountains of government technology at hand.
When picking an enemy, the script-writers went with the very safe bet of a North Korean terrorist, and I imagine that this should make the film as uncontroversial and inoffensive as possible, unless of course you're a North Korean terrorist. Aaron Eckhart uses his Dark Knight noble image to look convincing as the supposed leader of the free world, although he does seem to keep the same facial expression for the duration of the film. Gerard Butler is likeable, dependable and occasionally funny as the renegade hero, and the various supporting roles are filled with recognisable faces who add some weight to the proceedings and look and sound like they actually could be in cabinet.
Unfortunately, what they spent on acting talent seems to have been saved on special effects, with some scenes looking below par for this sort of film. But ultimately everything ties up nicely in heroic fashion, and the world gets to live another day, and I walked out feeling as if I had ordered an item off the menu that was familiar, satisfying, but nothing special. Now we just wait to see how White House Down compares.