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Film: White House Down

John Cale (Channing Tatum), a US Capitol Police officer, was trying to impress his daughter by bringing her to a White House tour and pretending he didn't just bomb his job interview to join the Secret Service (they didn't like his Cowboy Cop record). Unfortunately, a paramilitary group attacks the White House, and when most of the Secret Service ends up dead and the tourists end up being taken hostage, there's only one dude bad enough to save the President (and a bunch of other people too). The President himself (Jamie Foxx) is pretty badass, too.

The direct competitor to Olympus Has Fallen. Compare and contrast it.

This movie has sensitive plot twists. You Have Been Warned.

This Film contains Examples of:

  • Action Duo: Cale and Sawyer.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Cale and Sawyer talking about their daughters.
  • Adorkable:
    • Emily when she meets Sawyer.
    • Donnie could count as this, as well.
  • Author Appeal: Once again, Roland Emmerich directs a movie in which the White House, although with several other prominent American landmarks, gets utterly smashed up. Although at least in this one the White House ultimately remains standing, albeit rather worse for wear. The same cannot be said for the Capitol Building's dome.
  • Badass Family: The Cales.
  • Battering Ram: During the lawn chase, Cale plans to ram the main gate to escape, but Sawyer points out that the gate is heavily armored and designed to resist attacks of that nature. Very much Truth in Television.
  • Behind the Black: When the President appears at the end, alive - no one around seems to notice him until he announces himself.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Stenz, Tyler, Walker, and Raphelson.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Seconds before Walker activates the briefcase, Cale rams a Secret Service SUV into the Oval Office, pins Walker to the wall, and then blasts him with a minigun.
    • Donnie with that clock.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Speaker of the House Raphelson, who spends the entire movie playing innocent and humble, only for it to be revealed in the end he was one of the masterminds of the whole tragedy, possibly the worst one.
  • Bling of War: The rocket launcher in the presidential limo is very shiny, including the rocket itself.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Walker gets a few good seconds of minigun to the chest, and rather than being reduced to several pieces of dead villain, is still quite intact.
  • Brick Joke:
    • A woman on the tour asks to see the tunnels which JFK used to sneak Marilyn Monroe into the White House, and is told that it's just a myth. The tunnels exist and John and President Sawyer try to use them to escape later on.
    • While being held hostage, Donnie asks Killick if the terrorists could maybe be a bit careful with all the priceless antiques in the White House. Killick immediately bashes in a vase; a distraught Donnie pleads him to stop, claiming it's a Ming vase given by Queen Elizabeth. Donnie later saves Cale from Killick by smashing him over the head with an antique German clock, reciting its origin in the same way. He also makes a point of screaming at Killick to "stop hurting my White House!"
  • Book Ends: The helicopter ride over the Reflecting Pool.
    "I want to do the thing."
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: Walker punches Sawyer to disorient him then uses his handprint to open the nuclear football. Amusingly, given how awkwardly he does it, the scanner probably shouldn't have accepted it as valid (Sawyer's hand is almost a full 180 from the right position).
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Weapons are show running out of ammo and needing reloaded at multiple points in the film, and Cale keeps needing to steal weapons due to not carrying multiple magazines like the terrorists are.
  • The Brute: Killick fits this to a tee.
  • Camera Fiend: Emily, with her own YouTube channel.
  • Car Chase: Using the armor-plated Presidential Limo, tanks, rocket launchers, and minigun-equipped SUVs on the White House lawn.
  • Car Fu: Cale drives a Secret Service SUV into the Oval Office, hitting Walker.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Sawyer's antique pocket watch that belonged to President Lincoln, which later saves his life when it stops a bullet.
    • Raphelson's pager.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Emily uses her flag-twirling skills to wave off the air strike using the presidential flag.
    • Donnie the Tour Guide gives some helpful information to Cale, especially the bit about the British burning down the White House back in 1814. Cole realizes he could create a major distraction for the terrorists by starting a few fires of his own.
    • It's briefly mentioned early on that one of Cale's previous jobs was a limo driver. It comes in handy when he and Sawyer try to escape the White House in the Presidential Limo.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: If there ever was a place where everything being bulletproof could be justified.
    • Averted. Bullets punch holes through anything not specifically mentioned as bulletproof, and there are several shots of characters ducking as automatic fire tears through the wall above them.
    • Played straight at one point, however, when Cale kills Stenz in the Press Corps briefing room by detonating several grenades at once. The explosion blows a large hole in the side of the building, but Cale escapes injury by hiding behind the podium.
  • Conspicuous CG: Most sequences involving aircraft in flight at locations other than the White House.
    • The Marine 1 approach near the beginning.
    • The Delta Force chopper incursion through the city.
    • The final scene.
    • Most of the exterior shots of Air Force One. Except the scene where it's shot down, the CG in that scene is much better.
    • The F-22 raptors.
  • Cool Car: The president's official limo, which the key fob titles "Ground Force One" in the movie, can withstand almost anything anyone can throw at it, and it takes several hundred minigun rounds and a couple well-placed rockets to stop it (but not destroy it).
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: In a conversation with the Speaker early on, the President blames continued hostilities in the Middle East on defense industries that profit off the conflict. It's likely they're helping bankroll the takeover of the White House.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Donnie the tour guide, who beats Killick, one of the mercenaries, to death with an antique clock, then cocks a shotgun with a witty one-liner, and leads the hostages to safety (granted, after Cale hands him the gun and tells him what to do).
    Donnie: You heard the man. [Dramatic Gun Cock] Tour's over!
  • Crusading Widower: Walker's son was killed in a covert op that Sawyer authorized, and he's determined not only to get revenge for his son's death, but to also ensure that no other Americans die in the Middle East... by wiping out the entire region with Sawyer's nuclear briefcase commands. Interestingly, his wife, when called in to try and talk him out of it, only encourages him upon hearing his justification.
  • Cutting the Knot: Walker's take on his actions. US troops can't keep dying in Middle East conflicts if there is no Middle East to have a conflict in!
  • Die Hard on an X: Die Hard — in the White House!
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: A few times when the villains were trying to intimidate their hostages, and twice by the White House tour guide with a shotgun.
  • The Dragon: Stenz to Walker, Walker to Raphelson.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Skip Tyler is killed by the bomb down in the White House tunnels, evidently because the disarm card he tried to use was either damaged or just dirty. It feels like they needed an excuse to eliminate him.
  • Dynamic Entry: Cale drives an armored SUV straight through the Oval Office wall to run down Walker just in time to stop him from pressing the Big Red Button to start WWIII.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Stenz actually cares about his men and has to be talked down by Walker to keep him from going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge when one is killed. Walker himself is acting out of a desire to avenge his dead son. Walker also shows a clear fatherly regard for Carol and makes a point of sending her away from the White House before everything goes down, with the implication being that he's doing so to make sure she's safely far away when it all happens.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: At least one of the mercenaries baulks at the plan to blow up the Middle East.
  • Evil Genius: Skip Tyler.
  • Expy:
    • President Sawyer is clearly an expy of Barack Obama: A young, black, liberal-leaning U.S. President who wants to pull the military out of the Persian Gulf, is hated by the right wing talking heads and is an ex-smoker.
    • Roger Skinner is an expy of Rush Limbaugh. He's a right wing blowhard who is hyper-critical of the liberal president, and liberalism in general. He even looks like younger, skinnier Rush.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: It can be seen that the code Skip Tyler is running is taken from securitytube.net. A shot of Emily and John's White House passes shows the film takes place on October 4, 2014.
  • Foreshadowing: "It's gonna be a busy morning, boys."
  • Gatling Good: The mercenaries use miniguns on the president's limo when they try to escape, eventually causing so many indentations in the windshield that Cale is forced to navigate via external cameras. Cale later uses one to kill Walker at the end, seconds before he can trigger World War III.
  • Go Through Me: When one of the mercenaries threaten to harm Emily, Roger Skinner says this phrase, and ends up getting killed for it.
  • Greed: The mercenaries as a whole are getting paid handsomely for their work, though as a bonus almost all of them have some sort of grievance against the government.
  • Heroic Bystander: Donnie the tour guide, who saves Cale from Killick with the use of an antique German mantle clock.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Missiles, whether nuclear or conventional, cannot be launched remotely, the guys at the on-site controls have to approve it.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Used by the bad guys in the initial attack, efficiently wiping out security until they get their hands on the bigger guns stored in the armory and abandon any pretense of stealth.
  • Hypocrite: Towards the end, after Stenz decides to take Cale on single-handed to avenge the men Cale has killed, Walker yells at him for making things personal. Stenz yells back that given that Walker is planning to launch a whole lot of nukes at the Middle East to avenge the death of his son, he doesn't really have much room to accuse someone else of taking things personally.
  • Improvised Weapon: Cale uses several throughout the film, mainly because he's got limited amounts of ammo and has to keep stealing new guns. Donnie beats one of the terrorists to death with a clock.
  • Insistent Terminology: Emily insists that it's known as a "YouTube channel" and not a "video blog" or "blog". She lets it slide when Sawyer says "blog", though. Might have something to do with him being the President.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Subverted. There are multiple instances in which someone gets shot but doesn't die immediately. The full aversion is implied when Walker is using Emily to get Cale to cooperate; he specifically states that he'll shoot her in the stomach, dooming her to a slow, painful death.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Brought up briefly when Emily correctly answers all of Donnie's questions and does the "hand goes up immediately" thing.
    Cale: Do you get picked on in school?
    Emily [confused]: No.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Emily gets to ask a question of President Sawyer and she queries a political one worthy of a reporter from The New York Times or 60 Minutes.
  • It's Personal: One of Cale's first kills is a man who saved Stenz' life in battle twice. Stenz takes it upon himself to hunt down Cale.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Cale uses this to great effect. When cornered, he starts bawling and begging for his life, waiting for the goon's guard to go down, and then shooting him three times.
  • I Want Them Alive: Walker and Raphelson need President Sawyer alive in order to hijack the nuclear arsenal with his football. Sawyer is aware of this and exploits it on multiple occasions.
  • Karmic Death: Tyler, who is killed by his own booby trap.
  • Large Ham: Tyler, the hacker. Looks like Steve Jobs, has a really big ego, and puts up operatic music while hacking. He's the guy who says "It's SHOWTIME" in the trailers.
  • The Last Dance: Walker will be dead of a brain tumor in a few months, hence his willingness to go as far as he does.
  • Magic Countdown: The screen shows eight minutes until the airstrike. After a very long time, there are still four minutes left.
  • Mauve Shirt: Special Agent Todd. One of the few (if not only) Secret Service men who is named and speaks to Cale in at least two scenes.
  • Meaningful Name: Psychopath Killick and Agent Hope Walker to Carol: "Killing Hope was the hardest thing I had to do."
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Stenz is a combination of this and You Have Outlived Your Usefulness. He was once highly decorated Delta Force who did highly classified undercover work for the CIA in Pakistan. When the Secretary of Defense under Sawyer's administration shut down the operation and disavowed its assets, Stenz was exposed, captured, and sent to a Taliban prison. Finnerty's first reaction: "No wonder he's pissed at us".
  • The Mole: Walker and Raphelson.
  • Monumental Damage: Compared to the director's earlier films, the White House and the Capitol Hill are the only major targets of architectural mayhem. And both can be rebuilt.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Sawyer seems to express guilt after killing a mook while saving Cale, but Cale assures him he had no choice.
  • Mythology Gag: After being rescued, the President offers Nicorette, an anti-smoking drug, to which John declines. Jamie Foxx in this movie is an Expy of Barack Obama, a well-known smoker.
  • Not-So-Innocent Whistle: Tyler.
  • Not What I Signed On For: Stenz's Dragon (not Killick) immediately and vocally objects to Walker nuking the Middle East. Walker ends up killing him while Stenz is busy with Cale.
  • Oh Crap:
    • Walker when he sees that Sawyer has a grenade. And the pin has just been pulled.
    • Tyler when his card key doesn't disarm the bomb.
    • Raphelson, after an epic Smug Snake rant, has one when he finds out that Sawyer is alive, he's no longer president, and his plan has failed.
  • One-Man Army: Cale. It helps he had experience overseas.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: A President Minority/President Target combination; the director specifically pointed out that unlike one of his previous presidents Sawyer is definitely not President Action (at least not in the beginning).
  • Papa Wolf: John. The bad guys made a big mistake threatening his daughter. The Dragon finds this out the hard way when, after using his daughter as a hostage, gets an entire jacket of grenades tied around his neck and set off. And Walker, who also wasn't shy about threatening to kill Emily, gets an entire Gatling Gun clip unloaded into him. Lesson learned from the spoilers? Don't threaten Emily Cale if you know what's good for you.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Can't get more patriotic than having a Badass fighting President, except letting him ride in a Humongous Mecha.
  • Pet the Dog: Walker convinces Carol to leave the White House before everything goes down, thus sparing her from being gunned down.
  • Pocket Protector: President Sawyer survives a gunshot thanks to a pocket watch — not just any pocket watch either, it was President Lincoln's.
  • Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie: Lighter and Softer than many others on that list. As an extra jab at the terrorism, early on before the infiltrators are ID'd, one reporter mentions that there was no other way that this couldn't be linked to the War on Terror. It turns out that four of the infiltrators are white and have extensive backgrounds with the CIA.
    • Another reporter/analyst says "there's no way the attackers could be anyone but Arabs" which works out just fine for the attackers until Emily's video is broadcast.
  • Psycho for Hire: Most of the named mercenaries are psychopaths, though one of them seems to be more of a Punch Clock Villain and gets disturbed at how far the others are willing to go.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    "Permission to speak freely?"
    "Permission granted."
    "It's a shitstorm in there!"
    • Also:
    "As the President of the United States this comes with the full weight, power, and authority of my office...Fuck you."
    • Additionally:
    "You dim little shit."
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Get! Your! Hands! Off my Jordans!"
    • Also "Stop! Hurting! My! White! House!"
  • Ramming Always Works:
    • What Cale plans to do driving The Beast limo through the front gates of the White House. Sawyer quickly tells him those gates are designed against that sort of thing.
    • Played straight when Cale later on drives an SUV into the Oval Office to stop Walker finishing the launch commands.
  • A Rare Sentence:
    Reporter: It's the president! He has a rocket launcher!
    [everyone in the CIA now has a Flat "What." look on their face]
    Ralphelson: Well, that's not something you see every day.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Big Bad delivers one to President Sawyer once he has the Nuclear Football.
  • Red Herring: The Vice President almost seems a little too eager to invoke the 25th and take command, making it seem like he might have ulterior motives. He is, in fact, simply trying to do the right thing.
  • Red Shirt Army: Everyone in the White House security detail get gunned down very quickly when the mercenaries attack; only a few manage to fire back, but they miss and get shot themselves.
    • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: On the other hand, the mercenaries are gunned down very easily by Cale. Really, both sides are useless at fighting. Justified in many cases because he's with the President, who the mercenaries want alive.
  • Revenge: The motivation for the two lead attackers Walker's son was killed in a secret operation but what he's really angry about isn't that he died but that operation didn't lead to more action in the Middle East (the fact that the weapons his son's team was looking for didn't exist was just a minor detail); Stenz was a CIA operative who was disavowed after budget cuts and had a very bad time in a Taliban prison after he was exposed
    • In a more direct case, Stenz shoots the Secretary of Defense, the man responsible for getting him locked up in a Taliban prison in the first place.
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: The fact that the Cales had White House passes on the day of the plot is the only reason why it failed.
  • Right Wing Militia Fanatic: Most of the mercenaries.
  • Rule of Cool: It's a Roland Emmerich movie.
  • Rule of Pool: A bit of a Contrived Coincidence that the limo was lined up and flew just so.
  • Running Gag: Raphelson and Walker are both "dinosaurs" when it comes to tech and still use pagers.
  • Shout-Out: Donnie mentions the spot where the White House was blown up in Independence Day. Helps that this movie also has the same director of said movie.
  • Shown Their Work: The film makers clearly did a lot of research into the White House's layout and lore for the film.
  • The Sociopath: Killick, one of the mercenaries, is explicitly said to be one.
  • Smug Snake: Raphelson, when he thinks he's won. After Cale proves he was a mastermind of the whole plot:
    Raphelson: You dim little shit. I hired you out of pity, and this is how you repay me. But, you know tomorrow, when the people find out that your precious president helped a maniac open the nuclear football, who do you think they're going to believe? You, or me? Well, let's see now. You? You would be a nobody. But me? I'm the President of the United States.
  • Spanner in the Works: The villains' plan would have probably gone off without a hitch if a certain off-duty Capitol Police officer hadn't landed a job interview in the White House that same day.
  • Start of Darkness: Martin Walker losing his son Kevin in a botched mission ordered by the Pentagon. To a lesser extent, Martin's wife Muriel,who initially begs Martin to stop what he's doing and come home. When Martin swears her that he's doing everything for her dead son, she immediately reveals her bitterness over Kevin's death and gives Martin her support. Whether she knew her husband's true plan, is up for interpretation.
  • Straw Character:
    • President Sawyer's hypothesis about the plot against him involves one of these. Whether the writers subscribe to said hypothesis is never made explicit.
    • A number of those involved in the takeover of the White House are extreme right-wing radicals; the justification for this is that they were drawn from the pool identified by the Secret Service as having expressed credible threats against the President — said people tending to be nutcases.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The Big Bad wants to use the nuclear football to nuke some major targets. Also, the deaths of Stenz and Walker, with a grenade necklace and an SUV and minigun to the face respectively.
  • Took a Level in Badass: President Sawyer gets one teaming up with Cale to take out the terrorists. Also Donnie the Tour Guide.
    • So does Emily, who stares down a lunatic with a gun aimed at her head and later tells the president she "understands" when he tells her he can't give the nuclear launch codes over to save her life. Notably, the level she takes is not a very big one, as she was already provably badass when she recorded and uploaded a video of the mercenaries.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailers show Air Force One being blown out of the sky, so anyone you see on the plane early on is doomed.
  • Twenty Fifth Amendment: What else does one invoke when the White House is under hostile control? Becomes a major plot point to get Raphelson to the level of getting the launch codes Walker can use with Sawyer's nuclear football.
  • Two-Keyed Lock: Averted with the nuclear football: the president's hand print and codes are all that is needed to launch America's nuclear arsenal, and no one else seems to have the authority to override. Especially since Skip hacked in and prevented them from being able to.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Walker when things start falling apart around him.
    • Ralphelson loses it when Cale and Sawyer reveal his part in the plan and have him arrested.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Walker wants to end the conflict in the Middle East and prevent any more Americans from dying there, as his son did... but his preferred method of doing so is to nuke the area into oblivion.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The president's wife and daughter are shown on screen reacting to word that the President is presumed dead. We are left hanging as that plotline is never resolved with them learning he survived and he doesn't call them before the end of the movie.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Arguably, Martin Walker. His son being murdered from the Middle East was what drove him into this plan.
  • World Limited to the Plot: Only the White House takes the focus of the movie (around 80%). There are other areas that are featured throughout D.C. (and outside the US itself), but they are briefly mentioned.
    • The build-up of forces in Russia and China play in the background, and become relevant when Walker gets his hacker to break into NORAD, threatening global nuclear strikes.
    • At the end, it's casually mentioned that the other major powers are standing down their forces and signing onto Sawyer's peace plan.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The mercenaries and Walker are more than willing to hurt Emily. Stenz actually strikes Emily and threatens to murder her out of spite if it looks like they'll be caught or killed.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child:
    • The main pilot of the air-strike against the White House aborts the attack when he sees Emily on the front lawn. Notable in that he makes the call himself, instead of waiting to hear from his commanders whether to proceed or not. For his part, the Speaker, now President, clams up and forces the pilot to make a judgement call.
    • Sawyer surrenders himself when Walker threatens Emily. When Walker threatens Emily with a gun to her head to force Sawyer to unlock his nuclear football, however, Sawyer calmly informs her that he cannot be party to such an atrocity, even at the cost of her life. Emily accepts this reasoning and braces herself for the bullet.
  • Wunza Plot: One's an ex-soldier hoping to make the Secret Service! One's the President of the United States! Together, they blow up terrorists!
  • You Need to Get Laid: Walker suggests this to Carol, though not so directly. He's trying to do her a favor by getting her out of the White House before everything goes south.

To Sir With LoveCreator/Columbia PicturesYou Can't Take It with You
We're the MillersFilms of the 2010sWhy Dont You Play In Hell

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