White House Down

2013 film directed by Roland Emmerich

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White House Down
A man and the President of the United States walk from a battle-ridden White House.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoland Emmerich
Written byJames Vanderbilt
Produced by
CinematographyAnna Foerster
Edited byAdam Wolfe
Music by
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • June 28, 2013 (2013-06-28)
Running time
131 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$150 million[2]
Box office$205.4 million[2]

White House Down is a 2013 American political action thriller film directed by Roland Emmerich and written by James Vanderbilt. In the film, a divorced US Capitol Police officer attempts to rescue both his daughter and the President of the United States when a destructive terrorist assault occurs in the White House. The film stars Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Joey King, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, and James Woods.

Released on June 28, 2013, by Sony Pictures Releasing, White House Down received mixed reviews from critics toward the screenwriting and the clichéd storyline, although the performances and action sequences were praised. The film grossed over $205 million worldwide at the box office, against a budget of $150 million. White House Down was one of two films released in 2013 that dealt with a terrorist attack on the White House; the other, Olympus Has Fallen, was released three months earlier.


U.S. President James Sawyer makes a controversial proposal to remove military forces from the Middle East. Divorced veteran John Cale works as a Capitol Police officer assigned to Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson, whose nephew he saved while serving in Afghanistan. Cale hopes to impress his daughter Emily by interviewing for the Secret Service, getting tickets for them to tour the White House. His interviewer, Deputy Special Agent-in-Charge Carol Finnerty, a college acquaintance, deems him unqualified for the job.

Meanwhile, Cale and his daughter take a guided tour of the White House. Meanwhile, a mysterious man disguised as a janitor detonates a bomb in the United States Capitol, collapsing the rotunda and sending Washington, D.C. into lockdown. Finnerty escorts Raphelson to an underground command center in the Pentagon, while Vice President Alvin Hammond is taken aboard Air Force Two. At the same time, a paramilitary team of mercenaries led by ex-Delta Force and CIA operative Emil Stenz infiltrate the White House and overwhelm the Secret Service, seizing the building. The tour group is taken hostage in the Blue Room by white nationalist Carl Killick, but Cale escapes to search for Emily, separated during the tour. Retiring Head of the Presidential Detail, Special Agent-in-Charge Martin Walker brings Sawyer to the PEOC beneath the White House Library. Inside, Walker kills Sawyer's detail, including fellow agent Ted Hope, revealing himself as the leader of the attack, apparently seeking vengeance against Sawyer for his Marine son, Kevin Walker, who was killed in a botched mission in Iran the year prior. Cale kills a mercenary, taking his weapon and radio, and rescues Sawyer after overhearing Walker.

Walker brings in ex-NSA analyst Skip Tyler to hack the PEOC's defense system, but requires Sawyer to activate the nuclear football. Killick catches Emily filming the intruders on her phone and takes her hostage. Cale and Sawyer contact the command structure via a scrambled satellite phone in the residence, whereas Finnerty uses Emily's YouTube video to discover the mercenaries' identities. Cale and Sawyer try to escape via a secret tunnel, but find the exit rigged with explosives. They escape in the presidential limo but are chased by Stenz and fall into the White House pool. With Sawyer and Cale presumed dead in an explosion in the cabana, the 25th amendment is invoked; Hammond is sworn in as president. Cale and Sawyer, still alive, learn Hammond has ordered an aerial incursion to retake the White House, but the mercenaries shoot down the helicopters. Learning Emily's identity from the video, Stenz takes her to Walker in the Oval Office. Hacking into NORAD, Tyler launches a laser-guided missile at the now Air Force One from Piketon, Ohio, killing Hammond and everyone on board. Raphelson is sworn in as president and orders an air strike on the White House.

Sawyer surrenders himself to save Emily. Walker, blaming Iran rather than Sawyer for Kevin's death, demands Sawyer use the football to launch nuclear missiles against various Iranian cities. Sawyer refuses, while Cale sets fire to several rooms as a diversion. Tyler inadvertently triggers the tunnel explosives and is vaporized. Killing most of the mercenaries and freeing the hostages with the help of tour guide Donnie Donaldson, Cale fights against Stenz and blows him up with a grenade belt. Sawyer attacks Walker, but in the fight Walker uses Sawyer's handprint to activate the football and shoots Sawyer, much to Emily's fury. Before Walker can finally launch the missiles from the USS Albuquerque, Cale crashes a reinforced Chevrolet Suburban into the Oval Office and kills him with the car's rotary cannon. Emily runs outside and waves off the incoming fighter planes with a presidential flag, calling off the air strike. Sawyer survives thanks to a pocket watch once belonging to Abraham Lincoln that stopped Walker's bullet.

With Finnerty's help, Cale realizes that Raphelson was the one who gave Walker the launch codes, having acted at the behest of the corrupt military–industrial complex. Believing Sawyer dead and that Cale will never be believed, Raphelson is tricked into confessing and arrested for treason when Sawyer appears and thus removing Raphelson from the position of President. Sawyer names Cale his new special agent and takes him and Emily on an aerial tour of DC on Marine One, aboard which he receives word that France, Iran, Israel and Russia have agreed to his peace deal after learning of the events at the White House, calling for an end to all wars.



White House Down is directed by Roland Emmerich and based on a screenplay by James Vanderbilt, who is also one of the film's producers. Sony Pictures purchased Vanderbilt's spec script in March 2012 for $3 million, in what The Hollywood Reporter called "one of the biggest spec sales in quite a while". The journal said the script was similar "tonally and thematically" to the films Die Hard (1988) and Air Force One (1997).[14] In the following April, Sony hired Roland Emmerich as director.[15] Emmerich began filming in July 2012 at the La Cité Du Cinéma in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.[16] Cinematographer Anna Foerster shot the film with Arri Alexa Plus digital cameras.[17]

In 2012, Sony competed with Millennium Films, who were producing Olympus Has Fallen (also about a takeover of the White House) to complete casting and to begin filming.[18]


White House Down was originally scheduled for a November 1, 2013 release, but was moved up to a June 28, 2013 release.[19] The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on November 5, 2013.[20]


Critical response

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 52% based on 203 reviews, with an average rating of 5.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "White House Down benefits from the leads' chemistry, but director Roland Emmerich smothers the film with narrative clichés and choppily edited action."[21] At Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 52 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[22] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[23]

Roth Cornet of IGN gave the film a score of 6.5/10, concluding: "White House Down is a pretty silly rehashing of previously tread action movie territory, but if you're willing to laugh along with (or even at) it, it can be a highly entertaining experience."[24] Andrew Chan of the Film Critics Circle of Australia wrote, "I am not entirely sure, whether I should be happy or sad that I laughed when someone got shot or bombed, but such is the manner of how the film is played out."[25] Mark Kermode of The Observer gave the film 3/5 stars, writing that it "at least has the good grace to laugh at itself as it rolls out the dingbat-daft action-movie cliches."[26] Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express gave the film 2.5/5 stars, writing: "Trouble is, it goes on too long. It has several climactic moments, but every time you ready for the exit, the film bounces back again for the next round."[27] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 2/5 stars, saying that "real thrills – dependent on real, believable jeopardy – are not on offer: just cheerfully absurd spectacle and a little bit of humour."[28]

Box office

White House Down grossed $73.1 million in the United States, and $132.3 million internationally, for a total gross of $205.4 million, against a budget of $150 million.[2]

The film made $24.8 million in North America during its opening weekend, coming in below expectations and finishing fourth at the box office.[23]


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  2. ^ a b c "White House Down". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved January 26, 2022.
  3. ^ Kit, Borys (May 14, 2012). "Channing Tatum in Talks to Star in 'White House Down'". Variety.
  4. ^ Sneider, Jeff; Kroll, Justin (June 6, 2012). "Foxx nominated for 'White House Down'". Variety.
  5. ^ Sneider, Jeff; Kroll, Justin (June 7, 2012). "Maggie Gyllenhaal joins 'White House' staff". Variety.
  6. ^ Patten, Dominic (August 2, 2012). "Roland Emmerich's 'White House Down' Adds Jason Clarke To Cast". Deadline Hollywood.
  7. ^ Sneider, Jeff; Kroll, Justin (July 16, 2012). "Richard Jenkins joins 'White House Down'". Variety.
  8. ^ Sneider, Jeff (July 24, 2012). "Joey King 'Down' to play Tatum's daughter". Variety.
  9. ^ Kroll, Justin (July 9, 2012). "James Woods in talks for 'White House Down'". Variety.
  10. ^ Patten, Dominic (August 9, 2012). ""White House Down" Adds Michael Murphy". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 3, 2012.
  11. ^ Kit, Borys (September 24, 2012). "Twilight Actress Joins 'White House Down,' 'Homefront'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  12. ^ Sneider, Jeff (August 3, 2012). "'White House Down' elects Lance Reddick". Variety.
  13. ^ Kit, Borys (August 10, 2012). "Garcelle Beauvais Joins 'White House Down'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  14. ^ Kit, Borys (March 30, 2012). "Sony Plunking Down $3 Million for 'White House Down' by James Vanderbilt". The Hollywood Reporter.
  15. ^ Fleming, Mike (April 2, 2012). "Roland Emmerich in Talks to Helm $3 Million Sony Spec 'White House Down'". Deadline Hollywood.
  16. ^ Kelly, Brendan (July 17, 2012). "Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and James Woods coming to town to shoot White House Down". The Gazette. Montreal. Archived from the original on July 19, 2012.
  17. ^ Goldman, Michael (July 1, 2013). "Prime Target". American Cinematographer. Los Angeles, California, United States: American Society of Cinematographers. 94 (7): 34. ISSN 0002-7928. Retrieved February 19, 2023.
  18. ^ Kit, Borys (April 10, 2012). "Antoine Fuqua Circling 'Olympus' as White House Thriller Race Heats Up". The Hollywood Reporter.
  19. ^ McClintock, Pamela (August 6, 2012). "Sony Moving 'White House Down' to Heart of Summer 2013". The Hollywood Reporter.
  20. ^ Rawden, Jessica (September 3, 2013). "White House Down Will Hit Blu-ray And DVD In November". cinemablend. Retrieved September 4, 2013.
  21. ^ "White House Down". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved August 14, 2022.
  22. ^ "White House Down". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved January 26, 2022.
  23. ^ a b Subers, Ray (June 30, 2013). "Weekend Report: 'Monsters' Repeats, 'Heat' Sets Fire to 'White House'". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 28, 2013.
  24. ^ Roth Cornet (June 26, 2013). "White House Down". IGN. Ziff Davis Media. Retrieved June 28, 2013.
  25. ^ Chan, Andrew (August 29, 2013). "White House Down". [HK Neo Reviews].
  26. ^ Kermode, Mark (September 14, 2013). "White House Down – review". The Guardian. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  27. ^ Gupta, Shubhra (July 19, 2013). "Movie review: White House Down". The Indian Express. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  28. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (September 12, 2013). "White House Down – review". The Guardian. Retrieved January 13, 2022.

External links

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