- Composed by Harald Kloser and Thomas Wander
- Varèse Sarabande / 2013 / 48m
Roland Emmerich’s latest big-budget action extravaganza, White House Down sees Channing Tatum save not just his daughter but also the US President after the White House is attacked by some nasty terrorists. Stretching credibility, the President is played by Jamie Foxx – a black president! Come on now. The music, as usual for this director’s films, comes from the team of Harald Kloser and Thomas Wander. Kloser hasn’t also written the film this time round, though he did serve as producer, and probably made everyone’s tea. After the excitement of David Arnold’s three scores for Emmerich and then the brief diversion to the great John Williams on The Patriot, the change in musical approach since Kloser (later joined by Wander) took over is so extreme, it doesn’t really make sense – it’s hard to talk about any of the previous four Kloser/Wander scores for Emmerich without repeatedly using the word “bland” – I’ve just never been able to reconcile the outlandish extravagance of every other aspect of the films with the understated timidity of their scores, which seem to serve no purpose whatsoever. It’s a very pleasant surprise then that White House Down starts more promisingly – the “Opening Theme” is still a bit bland, but only a bit, and at times it threatens a certain dynamism; then there’s a lovely patriotic theme explored in the next couple of cues (and further still in “End Theme”, where it’s properly developed – that’s easily the standout track on the album).
Then the action starts, in “Let’s Go”, and things just become very dull. It’s based on little cells of music thrown around here and there, with sparse orchestration that could if taken in a certain direction have been used like in one of those glorious 1970s action/suspense scores; but instead, it all rather fizzles out whenever it seems about to burst into life, relying on synth percussion to provide a feeling of momentum – so perfunctory does it sound, it actually does quite the opposite. Unfortunately the bulk of the score is like that – it feels so tentative, so afraid to get noticed. I want to get it to stand up and tell it to grow a pair, but I guess I’d look a bit silly if I did that. It’s not awful, not by any means – and listening to a track like “Fighting Vadim”, there is a bit of genuine excitement – there’s just not enough of it to produce a compelling album; and it’s so insulting to Kloser and Wander that I feel bad for saying it, because I’m sure they worked very hard, but as a film score, really, what’s the point of music like this? It’s just there to sit in the background, music for the sake of having music; is the film any better for having this music in it than it would be if it had no music at all? I really don’t understand the direction Emmerich has gone with the scores for his films; with sequels to Independence Day reportedly next on his agenda, let’s hope he comes to his senses. As for White House Down – it’s professional, frequently slick – but really very bland.