See it if you like: tight, character-driven dramas with an edge of action. Or F1. Or cars.
I begin with the same disclaimer with which I started my review of Senna about two years ago: “I am not an F1 fan. I appreciate the technology and so forth, but I find the sport itself deathly dull.” I will, however, also reach the same conclusion – it makes for bloody brilliant films.
Seriously, without looking on IMDB to check his filmography, I don’t think Ron Howard has made a single bad film. And he continues the impressive trend with this.
Despite being set in the world of motor racing, the tale is very much focused on the two main characters – ladies man and bit-of-a-dick James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), and rat-like workhorse Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl).
From their first meeting during a Formula 3 race to their world famous clash during the 1976 F1 season, the story follows their personal lives, relationship with each other and memorable events on the track.
One benefit, as with Senna, of not being a fan of the racing is that I didn’t know exactly how things would pan out as far as results went. Obviously it must have been tight, but beyond that it added something to the film by not knowing. At one point the wife, who probably likes F1 even less than me, leaned over and asked “Does anyone die in this race?” She was genuinely wrapped up so much in the characters that she was nervous about watching. It’s that good.
While the track sequences are stunning they are purely the backdrop to the excellent performances by the leads (and supporting cast) who really portray two vastly different men who ended up very much respecting each other. The story on the way there is a roller-coaster of a ride of the highest order and left me just as thrilled and exhausted at the end as if I’d been on a real one.
I’ll finish with a quote from the Mrs: “I’d say more than pleasantly surprised, there were points when I was literally on the edge of my seat. Not into cars at all but this is a great film, I really enjoyed it.”
“How do you lose a rocket launcher?”
Plot-in-a-nutshell: mad loons break into the White House to kidnap the President. Only one man (and his daughter, and a tour guide, and another man, and some people outside) can stop them
See it if you like: Silly action films that don’t make much sense, but entertain nevertheless
By coincidence, we watched Olympus Has Fallen earlier this week, which has a very similar plot but takes a more serious tone than the more “jokey” one apparent in scenes of White House Down. In fact, the trailer for this film may make you think that it’s more of a buddy-buddy comedy action.
Actually, it isn’t. Although there are some light-hearted moments and good one-liners, it’s as much a comedy as Die Hard (which is always going to be the benchmark for 1-man or 2-men against overwhelming odds action films). The effects are better than OHF‘s as well, which to me looked more like a made-for-TV movie with some shonky CGI vehicles and the like.
In this WHD, Channing Tatum plays Cale, a wannabe secret service agent and actual army drop-out with a failed marriage. His dream job is to be on the presidential guard to impress his daughter (a marginally annoying, but only in a way all teenagers are, Joey King). The President in this case is played by Jamie Foxx and he’s probably the piece of the puzzle (barring the usual “no human can take that many beatings issue) which provides the weak link.
Foxx isn’t bad at all. And he works well alongside Tatum in their scenes together. It’s the character himself that requires belief suspension. First of all a black president (one of the background reporters towards the end actually refers to him as “Obama”!), and one who wants to withdraw all troops from the Middle East thus setting up the reasons for the assault on the White House. Yeah, right.
However, if you can’t suspend belief during an action film then you may as well sit at home. It rollicks along at a fair old pace once it gets going with suitably bad bad guys, buff good guys, and ineffective authority figures bickering amongst themselves instead of getting the job done.
Oh, and if there’s one whopping great reference to Bruce Willis‘s best film it’s the computer hacker. Flamboyant, egotistical, and listening to classical music while he taps away.
As expected, the bangs and crunches get bigger and stupider as the film progresses. No surprises, no major twists that you can’t see coming a mile away but still a fun ride.