This spring/summer, in a bit of what I suppose is cinematic serendipity, Hollywood released two major films with White-House-Under-Siege themes. The first entrant was Olympus Has Fallen, (OHF), starring Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart. On its heels came White House Down, (WHD), boasting Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx in lead roles.
(Spoiler Warning – but, hey, keep reading; neither movie is so profound it’ll be ruined by anything you find out here).
The major bones of both flicks’ storylines are almost distractingly similar: the “People’s House” is murderously hijacked by a pack of world-class baddies, the president is imperiled harrowingly , an unlikely hero appears unbidden, accompanied by an adolescent side-kick of sorts, and explosively saves the day.
Each features respectable action sequences and special effects, is passably entertaining, and each film has its scattershot moments: Olympus‘s initial assault on the White House is punch-in-the-gut gripping; and, I confess, a heart-rending, slow-mo shot of “Old Glory”, unmasted and spiraling mournfully to the ground, put a tearful lump in my throat.
Meantime, halfway into White House Down the president (Foxx) and his slightly disoriented rescuer (Channing) engage in an extended and unexpected car chase which churns up — I’m serious — the White House grounds. It goes on too long, but remains an amusingly creative episode.
Butler, as a disgraced, former Secret Service agent who becomes the tough-guy hero of Olympus, is more rough-hewn, and therefore more effectively convincing, than WHDown‘s callow Channing in a mirroring role — but both get the dramatic job done.
Eckhart, portraying OHFallen’s comparatively buttoned-up Chief Executive saved by Butler’s character, is a more compelling figure than Foxx’s president, although the latter’s “cool-factor” is, transparently, supposed to prove irresistible, wowing the audience (more on that shortly). Nonetheless, Foxx also competently hits all his marks.
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