White House Down

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
White House Down Movie Poster Image
Patriotic thriller is ridiculous, violent, and entertaining.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 127 minutes
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 40 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie has a strong patriotic message, but it's a bit conflicted, as some characters consider it the president's duty to be hawkish and kill all enemies, while others are for diplomacy. Sacrifice is also discussed again and again -- both positively (the importance of saving one person) and negatively (who cares whether we bomb an entire nation if its leaders are a threat to the United States?). Trust is a theme as well, and there's a strong father-daughter relationship in the movie.

Positive Role Models & Representations

John Cale has made mistakes in the past, but now he's committed -- to his daughter, to his country, and to his president (even though it's not his job to protect him). The president is a righteous man who wants to make a difference, not just make a name for himself. Both use violence as a means to solve problems. Emily, who's only 11, is incredibly brave and stands up to the armed hostage-takers on several occasions and even video tapes them and uploads the footage with her smartphone. Various members of the Secret Service and the armed forces do their duty admirably, but the mercenaries and the folks behind the takeover act without honor or care for human life.

Violence

Similarly to movies like Independence Day, there's lots of violence and an extremely high body count (collateral damage), but there are only a few bloody injuries. People die of bullet wounds, explosions, or blunt force. The weapons range from hand and machine guns to grenades and anti-aircraft missiles, military helicopters, and nuclear missiles. There are also a few hand-to-hand battles and various scenes of executions or close-range murders. Civilians, including an 11-year-old girl and a school group, are held hostage and threatened.

Sex

High-tech thermal equipment briefly reveals (through a building) the outline of two people on top of each other (sex is implied).

Language

One "f--k you," plus "a--hole," "s--t," "bitch" (referring to a little girl), "prick," "hell," "damn," "goddamn," "oh my God" (as an exclamation), and insults including "idiot" and "old man."

Consumerism

Cars in the president's fleet include a Cadillac limousine and several Chevy Suburbans. Other product placements prominently mentioned or shown include Sony VAIO laptop, Nike sneakers, and Nicorette gum. The director's other White House movie, Independence Day, is overtly referenced.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The president chews Nicorette gum and is obviously a former smoker. A staffer for the vice president drinks on a plane.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that White House Down is a patriotic thriller in the vein of Olympus Has Fallen and Independence Dayin which the country is saved by one brave man with a gun -- in this case Channing Tatum. Like Independence Day, which was also directed by Roland Emmerich, there's a lot of violence, but most of it is on a grand scale -- explosions, helicopters/planes crashing, and deaths the audience doesn't see too up close. There are a few hand-to-hand combat scenes and a tense hostage situation in which people (some in high levels of the administration) are executed or wounded. A young girl is frequently in danger and is almost killed on a couple of occasions (which ups the movie's intensity level), and the president seems dead. There's absolutely no sex or romance, but there's some language, including a single "f--k you," plus "s--t," "bitch," and "a--hole." Ultimately it's a crowd-pleasing action movie with a well-intentioned but slightly contradictory message involving both peace and the importance of armed defense.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAngelbb July 9, 2013

I Love God, hearing the 3rd commandment hurts my heart. The movie is out

This movie uses a lot of "G D". Taking the lords name in vain. It's time we state our opinions on how we'd like to go to a movie without hav... Continue reading
Adult Written byteddymom July 31, 2013

Ridiculous move

Ridiculous movie - too much violence, too much language, too little believability.
Teen, 13 years old Written byswimgirl28 June 29, 2013

Highly Recommended

I really enjoy this movie. The whole thing ket me on the edge of my seat. My heart wouldn't stop pounding. I also enjoyed the humor they added in. Just don... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 28, 2013

Great Message

Really good! Kept me at the edge of my seat. Can be good for kids if they think positive or make jokes through out the movie. Has an overall wonderful message a... Continue reading

What's the story?

Progressive U.S. President James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) is on the precipice of negotiating peace in the Middle East, and Capitol police officer John Cale (Channing Tatum) is at the White House in hopes of landing a Secret Service job. Cale's application is rejected, but he sticks around to accompany his politics-obsessed daughter, Emily (Joey King), on a tour of the White House. While the Cales enjoy their tour, the hawkish retiring head of the president's Secret Service detail (James Woods) orchestrates the bloody takeover of the White House with the aid of an extremist crew of paramilitary mercenaries led by disgraced Delta Force operator Emil Stenz (Jason Clarke). In the right place to make a difference, Cale is the sole person inside the White House with the experience to save President Sawyer, but he must also find a way to protect Emily before the terrorists destroy the nation's biggest symbol.

Is it any good?

Judged by the merits of serious filmmaking, the legends of the craft, and the movies that go down in history as being powerful, groundbreaking, or novel, this is a by-the-numbers flop of a thriller. It's completely unoriginal (it's not even the first "White House is taken over" movie of 2013!) and derivative; the plot is illogical and the action preposterous (how can not one military-trained armed guard get a shot off, even in a surprise siege?). But. It's also one of those explosion-filled summer popcorn movies that make you succumb to the charm of its cast, the humor of the dialogue, and the over-the-top sequences of one man defeating a room of  machine gun-armed mercenaries.

Some movies are so silly you can't help but smile -- so ridiculous it doesn't even matter how impeachable the movie is on almost every level, because it's amusing and makes good use of its stars. People will laugh when they're not meant to, mostly because it looks like Tatum and Foxx (who, despite what he's said in the press, looks very much like he's doing an impression of an Obama-esque Commander in Chief) are having so much fun. The bits of humor (shoeless President Sawyer looks into his closet for wingtips and then changes into Air Jordans instead; later, he says "the pen IS mightier" when sticking it to a baddie with his presidential fountain pen), the well-choreographed action, and the performances -- from the irresistible Tatum, to the fabulous Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) and Woods as villains, to Maggie Gyllenhaal as the Secret Service agent trying desperately to help -- will make up for this crowd-pleaser's many failings.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the amount of violence in White House Down. Does any of it seem realistic? How does that affect its impact?

  • How does seeing the destruction of national landmarks like the White House and the Capitol affect you? Is it more disturbing than when random buildings explode in movies?

  • Talk about which historical facts/trivia nuggets you learned about the White House and the presidency. Is the immediate line of presidential secession clearer now that you've seen it played out on screen? What did you think about the jockeying for control between the Secret Service and the military/joint chiefs of staff?

  • How does the movie's depiction of domestic terrorists and military mercenaries differ from other threats to the White House in previous movies/TV shows?

Movie details

For kids who love thrills

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