The International Writers Magazine: Film Review
Day After Tomorrow
Director Roland Emmerich
Starring Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm, Perry King...
Review by Sam North
wont see a better disaster movie this year'
On one level this
is a pretty exciting eco-disaster movie with spectacular special effects.
Dennis Quaid plays the American scientist who believes climate change
is a hundred years away. Ian Holm plays the British weather scientist
who believes the world is in for an immediate catastrophe. The ocean
temperature in the gulf stream is falling drastically. The Gulf stream
is what keeps us warm in the west. The American Vice-President, a Cheney
figure thinks all science is hooey and SUVs are here to stay.
Kyoto procol go hang.
Conveniently the weather begins to get colder, a lot colder, with helicopters
literally freezing in the sky and hailstones as big as cats falling
out of it. Turns out Ian Holm is right, the ocean is cooling real fast
and he persuades Dennis Quaid to tell the VP that they have to evacuate
everyone south of New York to Mexico or face mass extinction. You just
know the VP and the President isnt going to buy it and sure enough
the mother nature has the last laugh.
The reason we go to disaster movies isnt for the plot or the acting,
its to see New York and LA get it and get it they do, big time.
LA gets battered by twisters and that is pretty damn state of the
art special effects youre getting. OK it is a bit short on
character development at this point, but the shots of newsmen being
swept away and whole buildings being ripped apart makes you real
glad you don't sell insurance out there. Thrilling stuff for openers
- I'd say.
When the big wave
takes New York though, you can feel that wave as it just moves in and
over the whole of Manhattan. It's done in slow motion and for once it
is quite subtle and all the better for it. Manhattan is overwhelmed
in the most beautifully horrific way. Emmerich really knows how to trash
By chance Deep Impact was on TV the other night and here again
New York was swamped, but this was cheap and cheesy by comparison. The
Day After Tomorrow has spent big on the effects and it shows. They
are real and compelling.
A little less was spent on the script, but it was better than average,
it is never mawkish. Dennis Quaid gives a career rescuing performance
and Jake Gyllenhall, as his son, downplays his Donnie Darco personna
(a tad.) I think he will always be Donnie Darco for me.
There is a bit of a story, Jake is in New York with his school for a
interschool knowledge quiz when the big wave hits. Quaid, being the
father he is and after failing to convince anyone in time to prepare
for the big freeze that will follow the wave, decides to go get his
son. Come what may. You know this isnt wise as there are these
giant hurricanes over the whole of the USA and they are sucking down
freezing air from the upper atmosphere that can freeze marble in seconds.
(Thats cold, OK.) Son,
Ill come for you being the line. Naturally his loyal team
want to help and they set off to drive, then after crashing in a blizzard,
walk in sub-zero temperatures to New York - sledding over buried shopping
malls and whole buildings.
Jake meanwhile is in the New York Public library burning the books to
keep warm, along with some other chums who have survived the flooding
and first freezing. Touchingly he knows his father will come. Must be
great to have a father like that. Just to keep you on your toes some
wolves escape from the zoo as well...
Theres another sub-plot with the wife and a bald kid and the British
weather men freezing to death whilst having a last drop of 12 year old
whisky, but thats it for plots.
The rest is bad weather and its worth watching for that alone.
Its so realistic you really want to be there and walk those frozen
canyons in Manhattan yourself.
As America runs from the cold, (noting on the way that all of Canada
is instantly lost) they head to Mexico. At first Mexico says no. Then
they open the border (once their debts are forgiven.)
I rather think some big punches were pulled here. By all means crush
North America under ice, but to not show Americans driving into Mexico
guns blazing to take it over is just not facing reality. We know theyd
just crush all opposition and the only refugee camp there would be full
of Mexicans inside of a week. If we had seen that story unfolding, it
would have made all the rest of the film that much more persuasive and
The climate is changing. I severely doubt it would change in 48 hours,
but just like the movie Troy where a ten year siege became just
three weeks, who knows, huh. Who knows, youd trust a scientist
or a politician to tell you if we had just 48 hours to go?
Go for the thrill of it all. You wont see a better disaster movie
this year and I rather like the lack of heroes. No one saves the world,
everyone is mostly out for themselves, even Dennis foolish quest
in going back for his son, and thats the way it should be.
© SN June 1st 2004
all rights reserved