White House Down (Blu-ray)

November 5, 2013 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

As you’ll no doubt figure out by the chart below, there seems to be a particularly annoying trend in Hollywood – one that dates back several decades.  The trend?  Movies that come out that have the same theme. I’m not talking slightly similar, I’m talking it’s like the same movie!  Take a look at Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove. No?  Deep Impact and Armageddon?  Not satisfied?  Dante’s Peak and Volcano?  Still nothing?  Wyatt Earp and Tombstone?  I can go on, but you get the idea.  History has taught Hollywood nothing and in 2013 we’ve got White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen.  The latter of the two had the ‘advantage’ of coming out a few months earlier, had half the budget and ended up grossing more.  Go figure.  Having seen both of these films, it’s really hard to say which is better. White House Down is a bit more “family-friendly” in that it has a PG-13 rating, though I identified more with Gerard  Butler in Olympus Has Fallen.  Hell, watch ’em both – make up your own mind.  Here’s what to expect (though I suppose you could read the Olympus Has Fallen review and be equally up to date on the plot).

John Cale (Channing Tatum) is an underachiever.  His heart is in the right place, but he always seems to come up short and never finish what he starts. He’s got his sights set on becoming a Secret Service agent, though he’s just failed the interview.  He and his daughter, Emily (Joey King) aren’t on the best of terms, so what better than a tour of the White House to mend familial bonds?  It’s not long into the tour that the U.S. Capitol explodes which actually disguises the real intent – to capture the President (Jamie Foxx). Led by Stenz (Jason Clarke) and a crack team of armed-to-the-gills badasses, they take apart the White House in record time.  Of course, there’s always an inside guy and that person is the head of the Secret Service – Walker (James Woods). He’s a bad guy because James Woods always plays a bad guy.  And, because we’ve seen Olympus Has Fallen (and the cover art on the Blu-ray for this movie) we know that John will eventually save the President and manage to mend his relationship with his daughter.  You’re welcome.

In spite of my sarcasm (and knowing exactly what will happen from 4 minutes into the film) I have to say that I enjoyed the movie.  Yes, it’s predictable and yes we can pretty much guess what will happen, who’ll live and who’ll die but hey – it’s fun getting there.  I can only speculate about Roland Emmerich, though.  In his films he’s destroyed the Statue of Liberty and the White House (Independence Day). He’s frozen the East Coast (The Day After Tomorrow) and pretty much annihilated the world in 2012.  What’s this guy’s problem?  I’ve no doubt that Sony had very high hopes for the film, but with double the budget of it’s predecessor and a lower total gross – it’s hard to call this movie a financial success.  Still, as we’ll get to in a minute, it’s got rock solid visuals and a soundtrack that’ll give your speakers a good working over, so all is not lost.

Video: How’s it look?

Say what you will about the film itself, but I have to note that White House Down looks pretty darn good on Blu-ray.  With a budget of $150 million, I think the least we can ask/hope for is a good-looking picture and this Blu-ray delivers on all levels.  The 2.40:1 AVC HD image is rock solid from beginning to end.  By the closing credits, the main starts are scarred, beaten, bruised and the sheer detail of the film showcases just how bloody they all are.  Contrast is rock solid, black levels are never challenged in the least and though the majority of the film is a bit on the darker side, the image remained smooth and consistent throughout.  Sony has put together a top shelf visual package here.

Audio: How’s it sound?

What’s the perfect compliment to a “been there, done that” movie with top notch visuals?  You guessed it.  A very nice DTS HD Master Audio mix will do the job very nicely.  Ok look, let’s face it – there’s nothing in the movie that sounds bad.  Even the opening and closing of the doors seems to pack a punch.  There are plenty of gun shots, explosions, helicopters and they even threw in a tank for good measure.  It’s all good.  The soundtrack kicks ass.  Wait, let me try that again – the soundtrack kicks ASS!  I won’t re-invent the wheel here and keep explaining what you already know.  It’s perfect.

Supplements: What are the extras?

There are a relatively robust selection of supplements to choose from, though nothing really of substance (like a documentary or an audio commentary), still let’s break down the disc, shall we?
DVD Extras

  •  A Dynamic Duo: Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx – Some tidbits from the cast about “how great it is…” to work with Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. Foxx says how great it is to work with Channing Tatum. Tatum reciciprocates.
  •  Men of Action: Stunt Training – We see Channing Tatum as he does some stunts in a couple scenes.
  •  Meet the Insiders: Supporting Cast – As the name entails, we get to meet the supporting cast of characters in a barrage of clips.
  •  Roland Emmerich – Upping the Ante – The cast and crew detail what it’s like to work with the man, myth and legend – Roland Emmerich.

Blu-ray Exclusives

  •  Gag Reel – Oh those crazy guys and gals! Will they ever stop goofing off on the set?  Methinks not!
  •  The Inside Story: From Script to the Big Screen – Surprisingly absent is that “other movie”, but we follow the movie from selling it to Sony, the casting and the shortened production schedule.
  •  The Beast: Inside the Presidential Limo – Admittedly, this was actually pretty cool – a pretty in-depth look at “The Beast”, the Presidential limousine.
  •  The Full Arsenal: Guns, Grenades, Tanks and Choppers – As we might guess – a look at the weapons and whatnot used in the film.
  •  Presidential Treatment: A Massive Production – We get a look at the movie set around the White House, some of the sets and scenes.
  •  Crashing the Oval Office – Special Effects Breakdown – The real President probably didn’t want his office torn down and a car driven through the window, so we look at the challenge of replicating the Oval Office.
  •  Drowning the Beast – The Beast, as you’ll remember from four bullet points up, is the Presidential Limo.  It does not make it to the end of the movie. See its fateful last moments here.
  •  Recreating the White House – Again, we get a look at the recreation of the set with particular attention to detail.
  •  VFX Boundaries Down – An all too brief look at some of the visual effects used in the film.  Three minutes? C’mon!
  •  Lights Camera, Heart-Pumping Action – Cinematographer Anna J. Foerster is profiled here, but it’s essentially a glorified trailer for the film.
  •  DVD/UltraViolet Copy

* This chart can also be found in the Olympus Has Fallen review.

“John McClane” RoleChanning TatumGerard Butler
PresidentJamie FoxxAaron Eckhardt
Bad GuysNorth KoreaJaded U.S. Government
Speaker of the HouseRichard JenkinsMorgan Freeman
Landmarks DestroyedWhite House, U.S. CapitolWashington Monument, White House
Child trapped in White House?Yes (girl)Yes (boy)
Strong female lead?Yes (Maggie Gyllenhaal)Yes (Angela Bassett)
Veep (Vice-President) Dies?YesYes
DirectorRoland EmmerichAntoine Fuqua
StudioSony (Columbia)Sony (Columbia)

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