'White House Down' Is Packed With Continuous Action

The new movie White House Down is about terrorists trying to take down the White House. The idea is so completely ridiculous, says critic Kenneth Turan, that it's actually entertaining.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The new movie "White House Down" is pretty much what it sounds like - a movie about terrorists trying to take down the White House. We should all be grateful that Channing Tatum just happens to be around to stop them, so says critic Kenneth Turan.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "White House Down" is the story of what happens when an armed paramilitary group takes over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It's preposterous and diverting in equal measure - something you enjoy against your better judgment. Tatum is ideally cast as John Cale, the kind of regular guy you might not look at twice but a man with a dream. Currently, he's an employee of the U.S. Capitol Police, but Cale burns to be a Secret Service agent keeping watch over President James Sawyer, played by Jamie Foxx. Unfortunately, his White House interview with a Service agent played by Maggie Gyllenhaal doesn't go too well.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WHITE HOUSE DOWN")

MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL: (as agent) You received a silver star for pulling a Corporal Dawson from a burning Humvee.

CHANNING TATUM: (as John Cale) It was an IED attack. Humvee slipped, we were taking fire so I grabbed him.

GYLLENHAAL: (as agent) Why?

TATUM: I was a little concerned that he was getting a little too warm in there.

GYLLENHAAL: (as agent) It's funny to me you still think glib is the way to go here.

TURAN: But while Cale is having his job interview, we meet again the nefarious intruders so suspicious looking they practically have terrorist tattooed on their foreheads. They've infiltrated the White House and make taking over the building look easy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WHITE HOUSE DOWN")

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TURAN: But Cale just happens to possess the kind of extraordinary skill set that comes in handy when the fate of this nation is one the line. Cale and the president even end up as a very unlikely buddy team, able to share laughs as well as armaments.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WHITE HOUSE DOWN")

TATUM: (as John Cale) Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Take that thing that's in your right hand. It's a blast fuse. Perfect.

JAMIE FOXX: (as President Sawyer) Get me to the (unintelligible).

TURAN: Of course, all of this is wildly plausible and completely silly if you stop to think about it. But it is the strength of "White House Down" that the action is so continuous that it rarely leaves you the leisure for mature reflection. If this film had a sensible bone in its body, it wouldn't be the kind of fun it turns out to be.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and also for the Los Angeles Times.

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GREENE: This is NPR News.

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