There are two types of B-movie – the big, brash and bold, and the simple idea followed through until the end – and this double bill provided me with one of each.
White House Down is the second ‘terrorists take over the White House’ movie this year and if you’ve been taking notes you’d know I didn’t see Olympus Has Fallen, the Gerard Butler led version that was first out of the gate. By all accounts, that movie took itself far too seriously, a problem which afflicts too many films with entirely preposterous set-ups. White House Down does no such thing. It’s knows it’s a big dumb action movie from the start and goes out to have some fun with it.
It also knows it’s going to be labelled “Die Hard in the White House” and seems hell-bent on being a Die Hard cover version featuring, amongst other things, elevator shafts, walking barefoot, vest-wearing, rocket launchers being fired at armoured vehicles, helicopters being shot down, a bespectacled computer geek employed to break some codes, and a fair few other key images or ideas from what I believe to be the greatest action movie of all time. And this is no bad thing. White House Down always maintains a sly wink to the audience and is more than happy to accept its own ludicrousness, be it in a White House lawn-based car chase featuring the president firing a rocket launcher or an aside from the lead terrorist that he doesn’t want cake because he’s diabetic.
It is, like almost everything, too long, clocking in at over 2 hours, but it is bloody good fun throughout and it’s difficult to exit the cinema without a big broad beaming smile on your face.
The Call is a very simple idea looking at a side of the emergency services that is all too often overlooked – the emergency call operator. Halle Berry plays the operator and we’re quickly brought up to speed on the kind of pressures and situations an operator has to deal with. The people on the other end of the phone can be in pain, in fear of their lives, and the operator must remain calm and try to ensure the caller’s safety until the police or an ambulance can arrive. As the trailer gives away, Berry takes a call from a girl afraid of someone attempting to break into her house and does everything almost perfectly, but her one small and instinctive mistake ultimately leads to the girl’s death. Shaken, Berry becomes a trainer rather than an operator, until a tour of the ‘hive’ leads her to taking the lead on a kidnapping in progress. The caller is in the boot of the kidnapper’s car and Berry has to try to track her down.
The film keeps your nerves on edge the whole way through and asks the audience what they would do in the same situation, before ruling out each of those options. It’s taut at a little over 90 minutes and is the kind of claustrophobic thriller you wish came along a little more often but without the big effects there’s little to draw people in at first glance. Hopefully word of mouth will lead to a good life on DVD as this is a film which deserves a bigger audience than the one it appears to have found at the cinema.
One note, the ending, ultimately, is ridiculous and you can go with it or you can walk out feeling let down. I’d say just go with it. It’s playing up to some generic conventions and what has gone before earns some leeway and artistic licence.
White House Down – B – Length: 2hrs 11 mins – Feels like: 2hrs 10 mins
The Call – B – Length: 1hr 34 mins – Feels like: 1hr 30 mins
White House Down trailer:
The Call trailer – warning – it gives away basically the whole movie. If you think you may enjoy the film, just skip the trailer and jump in.