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Film / White House Down

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Reporter: Oh my God, that's President Sawyer! He has a rocket launcher!
Kelllerman: Well, there's something you don't see every day.

John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a US Capitol Police officer who is trying to impress his young daughter by letting her join him at the White House during his job interview for a position on the President's security detail. Unfortunately, a paramilitary group attacks the White House during their tour, 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 Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Cale and Sawyer talking about their daughters.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • John Cale is an Iraq war veteran. Channing Tatum had played a soldier in the Iraq war in Stop-Loss. In the latter, he also splits up from his fiancee.
    • Director Allusion - tour guide Donnie makes a reference to the White House being destroyed in Independence Day — which was directed by White House Down's director Roland Emmerich.
  • Agonizing Stomach Wound: Referenced. Walker is able to get Sawyer to surrender when he tells Cale that unless he surrenders, Stenz will shoot Emily in the stomach.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Walker utters a "Sorry, Ted" when he kills Ted Hope.
  • A Nuclear Error:
    • The entire plot to steal nuclear launch codes is based on the premise that whoever controls the "nuclear football" can personally fire nuclear weapons, and at the climax operators are shown helplessly watching as their missiles prepare to launch. In US nuclear control, launch codes are just a protocol to authenticate the orders are coming from a valid authority - it's up to the weapons operators to actually carry out the orders.
    • The President cannot unilaterally issue a nuclear launch order, it requires validation by the Secretary of Defense. Since Stenz kills the SECDEF during the White House takeover and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are killed on Air Force One, launch authority would presumably fall to General Caulfield, who would never have cooperated with the plot.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • A tank fires at the terrorists on the roof of the White House. Not only do they survive the massive explosion without a scratch and return fire within seconds, their piddly little RPG-7 manages to accurately fire upon and completely mission-kill an M1A1 Abrams tank, a tank so durable other M1A1 tanks firing on it wouldn't stop it, and a tank for which videos showcasing it going up against humans with RPG-7s and curbstomping them abound. This is also jarring as the terrorists are shown to possess FGM-148 Javelin missiles, which are specifically designed to destroy tanks. They then use the Javelins to destroy the Delta Force helicopters at such close range the missiles would not have armed.
    • Marine One never flies low over buildings in D.C, specifically because it puts the helicopter in a vulnerable position. It always flies high above the city.
    • The two F-22s tasked with conducting an airstrike on the White House wouldn't need to get as close as they did before being given the order to fire or stand down, as the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) they carry can be deployed from up to 15 miles away from a given target.
      • Furthermore, if the F-22s were flying so low that they could see a person standing on the White House lawn visually, they'd be so low that they wouldn't be able to deploy the JDAMs.note  Or rather, they coudl have, but the range would've been so short they'd have been caught in their own explosion.
    • Speaking of RPG-7s, for some reason the presidential limo is equipped with a chromed RPG-7.note 
    • One of the Marines escorting Sawyer has his rifle in drill stance with his hands away from the trigger and the barrel aimed at the ceiling while in the middle of a combat situation.
    • The scene where Air Force One is shot down. It is improbable neither the aircraft nor its fighter escorts would have not detected the missile via radar. In addition, Air Force One is portrayed as completely defenseless, while in reality it has a wide array of countermeasures. While the exact nature of the systems is highly classified for obvious reasons, it at the very least is known to contain missile jamming, flares, and infrared countermeasures.
      • In addition, the Hornet escorts only deploy their flares after Air Force One is hit. Not before, which should be common sense when a missile is inbound.
      • The missile used to shoot down Air Force One is a "laser guided" missile... which doesn't exist, since the mechanics of laser guidance don't work for airborne targets. Furthermore, a laser-guided missile requires a laser designator.
  • Author Appeal: Once again, Roland Emmerich directs a movie in which the White House, along 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.
  • Badges and Dog Tags: Cale is a former soldier who got a job as a Capitol Police officer and bodyguard.
  • Battle in the Rain: The final fight with Stenz took place in the White House Press Room where sprinklers have gone off.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Early in the takeover, Motts comes out behind a column yelling that they need help so that the guard will be distracted and Stenz can kill him.
  • Beard of Evil: Good luck finding a good guy with a beard in this film.
  • Behind the Black: When the President appears at the end, alive, no one around seems to notice him until he announces himself.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Martin Walker and Eli Raphelson plot up the White House hostage situation, with Raphelson hiring the mercenaries and staying behind the lines while the dying Walker and the mercenaries participate in the raid.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Cale's entire role in the movie. As an example, he rams a Secret Service SUV into the Oval Office seconds before Walker activates the briefcase, pinning him to the wall and then blasts him with a minigun.
    • Donnie, having had enough of the terrorists destroying historical pieces, uses a clock to smash Killick's head.
      • And he has a good line about it while doing so:
    Donnie: House! German mantle clock—Empire style.
  • Big "NO!": Stenz, before Cale blows him up.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Killick to the hostages.
  • 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. Shame Sawyer drops it after blowing a hole in the gate.
  • Bloodless Carnage:
    • Fred the gate guard gets shot in the throat by a sniper in the initial takeover, with the only evidence of injury being the shattered window in front of him.
    • 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.
  • Book Ends: The helicopter ride over the Reflecting Pool.
    "Henry, the President wants 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 shown 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. There's even an inversion; the pistol Cale takes from a dead Secret Service agent normally holds 17 rounds, but Cale is only able to fire five before it runs dry (two on Ritter, three on Chen (the terrorist who is eventually kicked to death by Sawyer)).
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Subverted. Emily Cale at first appears to be this, but she turns out to have Hidden Depths. Also, she's only 11.
  • 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!"
  • Broken Pedestal: Martin Walker towards most of the Secret Service employees especially Carol and Ted, with the latter being killed by Walker himself.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: The film takes place over the course of a single day, October 4, 2014 and it looks like a normal workday. October 4, 2014 was a Saturday.
  • But Not Too Evil: At least two of the terrorists are described as white supremacists, but neither of them makes a single racist statement throughout the film. However, Killick, one of the supremacists, was described to have set a post office on fire for hiring too many African American workers and his friend Connor (the terrorist who bombed the Capitol Building) runs a hate blog against Sawyer.
  • 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.
  • Cassandra Truth: Cale calls up a friend on Air Force Two after being trapped in the White House with President Sawyer. She tries to blow his claims off as a bad prank, but Sawyer takes the phone and orders her to get him in touch with someone in charge.
  • Casting Gag: President Sawyer is played by Jamie Foxx. The First Lady is played by Garcelle Beauvais, who played his love interest in The Jamie Foxx Show.
  • 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 knife, in this case - those knives the President mentioned in the residence kitchen come in handy later.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Donnie the Tour Guide gives some helpful information to Cale, especially the bit about the British burning down the White House back in 1814. After seeing a painting of the historic event, Cale 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.
    • Emily's flag twirling.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Cale is not afraid to ambush people, use environmental effects to force them out of cover, or feign surrender.
  • 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.
  • 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). Cadillac One IS genuinely DESIGNED to be like that. Its nickname of "The Beast" isn't just for show!
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: In a conversation with the Speaker early on, the President blames continued hostilities in the Middle East on defense industries and CEOs that profit off the conflict and actively strive to keep the conflict going. It's likely they're helping bankroll the takeover of the White House.
  • Covert Pervert: In the film's opening, a Secret Service agent is using his infrared scope to spy on a couple having sex.
  • 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 Widow: Kevin Walker, Martin 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.
  • Death Glare: General Caulfield gives one to Raphelson during Cale's explanation.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: Die Hard — in the White House! Cale even ends up in the John McClane signature outfit of a singlet and dark pants, although Cale has shoes (the President does lose one of his shoes for a short time though). And there are expies for secondary characters like Karl (Stenz) and Theo (Tyler).
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Skip Tyler's backstory reveals he was once a star hacker for the NSA, but was decommissioned after he tried to reroute missiles towards the Apple Company because he disagreed with their music sharing policies. One could argue Walker's whole plan to destroy the Middle East is this since his son died in combat knowing the risk, while the others he has and would have killed would have been ignorant bystanders.
  • Divided We Fall: Almost every single villain has a different motive for the attack. Stenz wants revenge on the administration for allowing him to be captured and tortured, Killick wants to take down a black President, Tyler apparently wants challenge and notariety of hacking NORAD, Walker wants to save America by nuking the Middle East, and Raphelson wants to be president. The rest of the mooks just want to get paid. Naturally, these various motives often collide, causing conflict among the bad guys.
  • Double Tap: Stenz kills several of the Capitol police with three shots at close range.
  • The Dragon: Stenz to Walker, Walker to Raphelson, Motts to Stenz.
  • 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.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Skip Tyler is killed by the bomb down in the White House tunnels because his ID card didn't disarm it. Most likely Raphelson rigged it that way to ensure he, like Walker and everyone else, wouldn't get out alive.
  • 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.
  • Embarrassing Ringtone: The ring tone on the cell phone of The Mole, who assisted those who took over the White House by becoming Acting President, so he could send them the access codes to launch nuclear missiles to the Middle East, is the main theme of The Dating Game (Herb Alpert's "Spanish Flea"). This creates Mood Whiplash during the denouement, where he's exposed to the President of the United States by redialing the terrorist Big Bad's cell phone.
  • Endangering News Broadcast: When the news reports Emily's videos of the terrorists, not only do they name her as the source of the videos but they go out of their way to find and broadcast her picture! The terrorists are pissed for being exposed and immediately find her among the hostages, and knowing her name further sets up their using her as leverage against Cain later on.
  • Engineered Public Confession: In the ending, Cale is met by Acting President Raphelson and says Sawyer is dead. He then confronts Raphelson on how he was the one behind everything and proves it by having Finerty call the number Walker was using, which rings Raphelson's pager. While Finnerty is stunned, Raphelson just snorts that there's nothing Cale can do as Ralpheson is now President and no one will believe "the guy who got the President killed". At which point, a very much alive Sawyer steps out of the rubble and has Raphelson arrested.
  • 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. Carol indicates they were close, saying she had Thanksgiving dinner at his house for years.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: At least one of the mercenaries balks at the plan to blow up the Middle East. He gets shot for it.
  • Evil Genius: Skip Tyler, a former NSA hacker and current cyberterrorist.
  • Expy: Several of the villains are expies of characters from Die Hard, such as The Dragon with a personal beef with the hero (Karl/Stenz) and the fast-talking egotistical hacker (Theo/Tyler).
  • Foreshadowing: "It's gonna be a busy morning, boys."
    • When Walker and Stenz are talking in the elevator, Walker tells Stenz that he knows his background and motivation, which wouldn't make sense for him to say if they'd had prior meetings when planning the takeover. As it turns out, Raphelson was the one who contacted the terrorists and arranged things, with Walker not meeting Stenz or his men until they arrived at the White House.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: It can be seen that the code Skip Tyler is running is taken from A shot of Emily and John's White House passes shows the film takes place on October 4, 2014.
  • 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 shot in the leg for it. He's later seen limping out of the White House.
  • 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.
  • Grenade Hot Potato: Cale throws a grenade at Killick, but didn't wait long enough after pulling the pin so Killick simply kicks it back towards him.
  • Guns Akimbo: Cale uses this for about five seconds, entirely for suppressive fire, in a situation where he's rapidly running out of options. One of the guns is even Gangsta Style.
  • Heroic Bystander: Donnie the tour guide, who saves Cale from Killick with the use of an antique German mantle clock.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: The silencer used by Stenz in the initial takeover was disguised as a microphone; Motts pops off the head of the "microphone" and tosses it to Stenz.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Missiles, whether nuclear or conventional, cannot be launched remotely: the guys at the on-site controls have to approve it.
  • Hollywood Law: The characters, particularly Carol, act as if invoking the 25th Amendment is some irrevocable order that essentially means they're writing the current president off as dead. In reality, presidents invoke it for fairly mundane reasons (medical procedures, usually) that would incapacitate them or otherwise leave them incapable of discharging their duties, and the office returns to them as soon as that period has passed. Sawyer would only be removed from office for as long as he was under duress, and his position would be his again as soon as the crisis was averted. It would specifically require an act of Congress to deny him his post after the fact. Indeed, if they wanted to solve the situation, they shouldn't have made such a fuss over it and done it as soon as possible.
  • 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.
    • Averted with the SMG Sawyer uses to kill a mook in the kitchen.
  • Hollywood Tactics: The Delta Force team sent to secure the White House has its helicopters hover low and slow directly above the terrorists who they know have anti-air weapons. One of the helicopters even goes so far as to visually inspect the hostage room, coming so close that a terrorist can yell a taunt at the pilot. The only helicopter that even tries to deploy its Delta Force team seemingly does so in response to getting a missile lock warning.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: In order to get Sawyer to unlock the nuclear football, Walker threatens to kill Emily. Sawyer initially sees no point, as his codes will no longer be valid even if he does open it, but he still refuses when Walker hints he's somehow gotten access to the updated codes. Sawyer gets knocked out and forced to activate the biometric lock anyway, bypassing that dilemma.
  • 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.
  • Impromptu Tracheotomy: Fred the gate guard gets shot in the throat from behind by one of Stenz's men in the first takeover.
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • Cale uses several throughout the film, mainly because he's got limited amounts of ammo and has to keep stealing new guns. For example, during the kitchen brawl, he uses, among other things, a toaster and a drinking glass as melee weapons.
    • 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's 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.
  • Karma Houdini: Muriel Walker allows her husband to continue with the attack on the White House in favor of their dead son and seemingly goes unpunished for her actions. It's probably not illegal to simply voice support though, so there's likely nothing they could do to her. However, her acts of encouragement in the situation could be registered as a corroboration of national terrorism. Carol herself mentioned that after the encouragement that she could have had Muriel detained in a federal prison for the rest of her life as a threat to Martin.
  • Karmic Death: Tyler, who is killed by his own booby trap.
  • Large Ham: Tyler, the hacker, is more of the Sissy Villain kind. Looks like Steve Jobs, has a really big ego, and puts up operatic music while hacking dancing in a way reminiscent of Gary Oldman in The Professional. He's the guy who says "It's SHOWTIME" in the trailers. On the other hand, there is Killick who chews the scenery due to his craziness.
  • 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.
  • Love Makes You Evil: The death of Martin Walker's marine son led Martin to starting off a plan that not only led to dozens of deaths in the Presidential Staff but the death of his own men by his hand and if succeeded, the death of thousands of civilians in the Middle East. When his wife found out his plan, she only voiced her support and tried to encourage it.
  • Made of Iron: A list of things Cale goes through during the film: several hand-to-hand fights, multiple shootouts and explosions, a high speed car chase that ends when the car is hit with an RPG and then crashes into the White House pool, topped off by falling through a glass roof and jumping through several other windows. A list of his injuries at the end of the film: a bloody nose and a bleeding cut on his bicep.
  • 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. He gets unceremoniously gunned down by Killick when the tour group gets taken hostage.
  • Meaningful Background Event: When Sawyer reaches the "Vault" and salutes the two technicians there, the camera turns back towards Sawyer so the viewer can see Walker aiming a pistol behind Sawyer.
  • Meaningful Name: Psychopath Killick and Agent Hope.
    Walker: [to Carol] Killing Hope was the second hardest thing I had to do.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Stenz is a combination of this and You Have Outlived Your Usefulness. He was once a highly decorated Delta Force soldier who did 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. Also examples of Mole in Charge since Walker is the head of the Secret Service and Raphelson becomes President for a short time near the end of the film.
  • 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.
  • More Dakka: Aside from the miniguns mounted on the SUVs, the mercenaries also have a 50-caliber machine gun they mount on the White House's roof and use to ward off the President's helicopter.
  • Motive Misidentification: It's clear to everyone that Walker's demands for $400 million and a plane are misdirection. Sawyer concludes that his attack on the White House is to get revenge for his son, who died on a botched military mission. Walker ultimately reveals that he applauded that mission, and was pissed that they didn't follow up on it. His plan is to seize control of the nuclear arsenal and bomb the Middle East in service to the cause his son died for.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Channing Tatum. In a sleeveless shirt. Covered in sweat. Yeaaah.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Sawyer seems to express guilt and shock after killing a mook while saving Cale, but Cale assures him that the mook would have killed Cale if he hadn't, so it's acceptable.
  • Nail 'Em: The first Secret Service agent who gets killed in the takeover is shot four times with a nail gun by Stenz.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: the Media: By broadcasting Emily's YouTube footage on the news, they not only reveal to the terrorists that their identities have been compromised, they plaster her name and picture on the screen, so the terrorists can identify her among the other hostages and put a stop to her secretly recording any more footage.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • 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, idolizes Lincoln, and is an ex-smoker, who remade the presidental limo into something akin to a tank.
    • 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 a younger, skinnier Rush. He gets a moment to shine when he defends Emily, though, so the portrayal isn't overtly negative.
  • 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.
    • Walker also has another one when, having already been seriously wounded and reaching out for the nuclear football, he sees Cale aiming a Gatling Gun at him.
    • 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.
    Stenz: Your little bitch says you're gonna put me in jail!
    Cale: No jail for you, you little bitch!
    Stenz: NO!
  • Passing the Torch: Implied. President Sawyer's role model was President Lincoln. Emily's is President Sawyer. Needless to say, she's too young to be the President, but give her a few years.
  • 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.
  • Police Are Useless: All of them except Cale.
  • 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 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. Walker lampshades it while talking with Stenz while watching the news.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • When describing the situation at the White House:
      "Permission to speak freely?"
      "Permission granted."
      "It's a shit show."
    • 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."
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Plenty of them. For example:
    Stenz: Good morning, Mr. Secretary. [Shoots the Secretary of Defense in the head]
  • 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.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Of the Punctuated Pounding kind. First with Presiden Sawyer versus a terrorist. Later with Donnie when he smashes Killick's head to save Cale.
    President Sawyer: Get! Your! Hands! Off my Jordans!
    Donnie: 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.
    • The M1A1 Abrams simply runs over the White House fence to shoot the terrorists, but this is justified as it is a literal tank.
    • Played straight when Cale later on drives an SUV into the Oval Office to stop Walker finishing the launch commands.
  • A Rare Sentence:
    Reporter: That's President Sawyer! He has a rocket launcher!
    [everyone in the CIA now has a Flat "What" look on their face]
    Agent Kellerman: Well, there's something you don't 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 gets gunned down very quickly when the mercenaries attack; only a few manage to fire back, but they miss and get shot themselves.
  • Retirony: Much is made about how the Head of the Presidential Detail, Walker, is on his last week on the job, complete with an Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene sequence where he leaves his house the morning of the attack. He does die, but that's because he's actually the bad guy. He also has an inoperable brain tumor which was killing him anyway.
  • 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. Notable as the newscasters in the movie initially refer to them as terrorists of Arab descent with no knowledge on the true identities of the terrorists, much to the terrorists' amusement.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The battle in the White House (and so the movie's plot) is meant to be a metaphor for political dissent in the White House.
  • 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 filmmakers clearly did a lot of research into the White House's layout and lore for the film.
  • Small Role, Big Impact:
    • Cale's friend Jenna is the reason he winds up at the White House for an interview to be a Secret Service agent.
    • One of the Secret Service agents guarding the tour group fires at Killick. He gets killed, but he caused enough of a distraction for Cale to escape and cause havoc for the villains.
  • 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.
  • The Sociopath: Killick, one of the mercenaries, is explicitly said to be one.
  • Soft Glass: Averted once, when the president gets a shard of glass in his torso after an explosion, but played straight every time Cale jumps/crashes through a window (which happens multiple times throughout the film).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Swiss-Cheese Security: According to this movie, a handful of mercenaries can easily take over the White House so long as they are aided by one Secret Service agent.
  • Tattooed Crook: Several of the mercenaries have tattoos, most notably Killick.
  • Telepathic Sprinklers: A fire in some rooms on the second floor of the White House immediately sets off the sprinklers everywhere, including the Oval Office (on the ground floor).
  • Terminally-Ill Criminal: One of the reasons why Walker works with the men invading the White House is because he has an inoperable brain tumor and only has a few months to live.
  • 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 up 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 Two being blown out of the sky, so anyone you see on the plane early on is doomed.
  • 25th 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.
  • 20 Minutes in the Future: The film takes place about year from its release, on October 4, 2014 (which can be seen in a Freeze-Frame Bonus on the White House passes in the beginning). President Sawyer mentions it is his first term, indicating he took office in 2013.
  • 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.
      Raphelson: Let me go! I'm the President! I'm the President!
      Sawyer: Consider this a coup d'etat.
  • 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.
  • Wicked Cultured: Skip Tyler, who plays Beethoven as he hacks into the missile codes.
  • 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: Martin Walker. His son being killed in 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 judgment 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.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The Vice President is sworn in as the 47th President, which makes Sawyer the 46th. The movie takes place in 2014, and it is Sawyer's first term (meaning he was elected in 2012, took office in 2013), in order for this to work, the 43, 44 and 45th Presidents all would have to have served one term.
  • 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 Can't Thwart Stage One: Largely played straight, but Emily does manage to strike a blow against the villains by posting her video footage she managed to record inside, giving the US Military valuable intelligence alerting them that what they are dealing is not an attack by foreign terrorists, but a covert act of treason.
  • 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.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: It's mentioned by Carol that Martin has an incurable brain tumor on his frontal lobe that will kill him soon, which is implied to be part of the reason he participates in his plans.


Video Example(s):


Stop! Hurting! My! WhiteHouse!

After an afternoon watching domestic terrorists destroy the precious artifacts in his care, tour guide Donnie has had enough.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / HeroicBystander

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