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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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Oliver Plunkett: The name of today's saint is especially familiar to the Irish and the English—and with good reason. The English martyred Oliver Plunkett for defending the faith in his native Ireland during a period of severe persecution. 
<p>Born in County Meath in 1629, he studied for the priesthood in Rome and was ordained there in 1654. After some years of teaching and service to the poor of Rome he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in Ireland. Four years later, in 1673, a new wave of anti-Catholic persecution began, forcing Archbishop Plunkett to do his pastoral work in secrecy and disguise and to live in hiding. Meanwhile, many of his priests were sent into exile; schools were closed; Church services had to be held in secret and convents and seminaries were suppressed. As archbishop, he was viewed as ultimately responsible for any rebellion or political activity among his parishioners. 
</p><p>Archbishop Plunkett was arrested and imprisoned in Dublin Castle in 1679, but his trial was moved to London. After deliberating for 15 minutes, a jury found him guilty of fomenting revolt. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in July 1681. 
</p><p>Pope Paul VI canonized Oliver Plunkett in 1975.</p> American Catholic Blog God had a plan even before he created Adam and Eve. God is never caught off guard. He knows all. He sees all. And he is working all things together for the good of his children. Nothing can stop his plan of mercy and love.

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