Cale (Channing Tatum) is in the White House with his daughter Emily (Joey King, who has to be a long lost twin of Chloe Grace Moretz); he's there to interview for a position in the Secret Service, and she's there because she's a big fan of American politics, in a way that only kids in movies could be. After a diversionary bombing at the Capitol building, the White House is promptly taken over by a host of bad guys, and President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) is being kept alive for… reasons that won't be revealed for a good while yet.
It's a solid 40 minutes before anything approaching an action scene kicks in, and longer again before the movie begins to have any real fun with them. But with the soon-to-be-immortal line "The President has a rocket launcher!", White House Down finally quits trying to be a serious movie and just lets the explosions do the talking. Emmerich knows how to stage an action scene well, and some of the bigger set-pieces - a car chase in a limousine, a helicopter squad attack - are genuinely impressive, but more often than not it's just another bland shoot-out that Tatum barely survives by jumping out of the way.
What saves the movie from irremediable mediocrity is the banter between Tatum - who is completely channelling John McClane right down to the white wifebeater, and he pulls off the put-upon action hero better than most - and President Jamie Foxx, who couldn't be more Obama if he tried. They're ably assisted by the solid supporting cast of Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods, Jason Clarke and Richard Jenkins, although you can probably guess who's a good guy and who's a bad guy from the opening credits.
By all accounts, White House Down should have been the Armageddon to Olympus Has Fallen's Deep Impact, thanks to an increased budget and bigger stars, not to mention the fact that it is directed by serial White House destroyer Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012). Unfortunately, WHD loses some serious points by taking way too long to become enjoyably ridiculous, and at over two hours, being just too long in general.
This year's second best "Die Hard In The White House" movie.