It would be impossible to detail in this space all the ways Roland Emmerich’s latest action/adventure, White House Down, violates the bounds of good (or even moderate) taste. Though rated PG-13 primarily for profanity, what’s really offensive about the film is how little awareness it shows of the fact that real terrorists have targeted capitol buildings, downed planes, and opened fire on innocent civilians, and that the spectacle of cartoonish rednecks doing likewise is hardly occasion for a laugh.
From its name (a cringe-worthy play on the excellent war film, Black Hawk Down), to its idiotic take on geopolitics (apparently military defense contractors trick terrorist states into attacking us so they can profit off munitions sales), to its wink-and-nod jokes in the midst of familiar-looking carnage, the movie displays a jaw-dropping lack of sensitivity to recent historical events.
It opens—stop me if this sounds familiar—with an impossibly cool African-American president (Jamie Foxx) who’s having a little trouble giving up his cigarettes. His day gets worse when a collection of skinheads and computer hackers storms the White House and his only hope for protection is a wannabe secret service agent (Channing Tatum).
I doubt it will come as a spoiler to anyone that in the end it turns out all the trouble was started by a bunch of money-grubbing Republicans, out to make a quick buck by starting wars. Thankfully, after hearing the president’s stirring speech, all the nations agree to sign his peace treaty, presumably pledging not to be hoodwinked into killing each other by those wily American conservatives anymore.
“This is the worst day in our country’s history,” says one character shortly after the president and his sidekick, er, bodyguard, gleefully trade one-liners while dodging bullets on the White House Lawn. No, a worse day in our nation’s history came on Sept. 11, 2001, a day Roland Emmerich and everyone else involved in the making of White House Down evidently missed.