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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

White House Down

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx star in a scene from the movie "White House Down."
In the hands of director Roland Emmerich, our nation's capital doesn't stand a chance.

Having laid waste to Washington by way of an alien invasion in "Independence Day" and via the Mayan apocalypse in "2012," he returns to form in "White House Down" (Columbia). This time, domestic terrorism is to blame for the swath of destruction along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Third time's a charm, however, as Emmerich has crafted a fast-paced thriller with heart -- but also with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Based on a clever screenplay by James Vanderbilt ("The Amazing Spider-Man"), "White House Down" never takes itself too seriously, injecting humor into a survival drama that crosses "Die Hard" with "Air Force One."

John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a member of the security detail protecting Speaker of the House Eli Raphelson (Richard Jenkins). His goal is to join the Secret Service and serve the president, James Sawyer (Jamie Foxx).

John's motivation is personal; he wants to impress his young daughter, Emily (Joey King), who is obsessed with politics and runs her own blog.

John arranges an interview with agent Carol Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal) at the White House. He brings Emily along, and the child is agog with excitement. Unbeknownst to her, though, Dad does not get the job.

John and Emily decide to take the White House tour (this is pre-sequestration, of course). Prophetically, their guide points out a painting of the burning of the White House by British troops during the War of 1812.

Meanwhile, evil forces are at work inside the Capitol and at the White House, where a team of terrorists have gained entree disguised as workers installing a home theater for the first family.

Before you can say "House of Representatives," the Capitol dome blows up and mercenaries are swarming all over the executive mansion. Martin Walker (James Woods), head of White House security, grabs the president and they head down to the underground bunker.

Of course, tourists make easy hostages. John springs into action and escapes, but becomes separated from Emily. Still, the ingenious girl manages to do her bit: She uses her cell phone to upload video of the attack to the Internet, blowing the terrorists' cover.

Without spoiling the plot and its many twists, suffice it to say that, predictably, John winds up being the president's only friend and protector.

Amid the mayhem, "White House Down" gets a little preachy, slipping in talk about peace in the Middle East, the impact of war on combatants, and the political power wielded by military contractors and arms manufacturers. But these issues, important as they are, take a back seat to unabashed patriotism and the portrayal of heroic sacrifice for neighbor, family, and country.

The film contains much intense but mostly bloodless violence, a fleeting sexual image, and occasional crude and profane language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Joseph Benedict Cottolengo: In some ways Joseph exemplified St. Francis’ advice, "Let us begin to serve the Lord God, for up to now we have made little or no progress" (<i>1 Celano, </i>#103). 
<p>Joseph was the eldest of 12 children. Born in Piedmont, he was ordained for the Diocese of Turin in 1811. Frail health and difficulty in school were obstacles he overcame to reach ordination. </p><p>During Joseph’s lifetime Italy was torn by civil war while the poor and the sick suffered from neglect. Inspired by reading the life of St. Vincent de Paul and moved by the human suffering all around him, Joseph rented some rooms to nurse the sick of his parish and recruited local young women to serve as staff. </p><p>In 1832 at Voldocco, Joseph founded the House of Providence which served many different groups (the sick, the elderly, students, the mentally ill, the blind). All of this was financed by contributions. Popularly called "the University of Charity," this testimonial to God’s goodness was serving 8,000 people by the time of Joseph’s beatification in 1917. </p><p>To carry on his work, Joseph organized two religious communities, the Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul and the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul. Joseph, who had joined the Secular Franciscans as a young man, was canonized in 1934.</p> American Catholic Blog The image of God! This is what it means to be human! We are not just a bunch of cells randomly thrown together by some impersonal forces. Rather, we reflect an eternal God who knew us from before we were made and purposely called us into being.

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