In the disaster genre, the audience must care about the characters to succeed. Filmmakers wisely choose actors with celebrity personalities that don’t overshadow their characters. Dennis Quaid (The Rookie, Any Given Sunday) leads the large cast as Professor Hall, the main protagonist who has a theory about Mother Nature’s impending doom that no one takes seriously. Sela Ward (The Fugitive) plays Hall’s wife and Nestor Serrano (The Negotiator, The Insider) plays his boss, Gomez. “I’d say you lost your mind, but you’ve been this way the last twenty years,” Gomez tells the tenacious Professor Hall. The relationships built between Hall and his work team, wife and son, Sam, played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko), work, but Sam’s relationship with his classmate, Laura, played by Emmy Rossum (Mystic River), resonates the best.
Laura accompanies Sam and his classmate, Brian, played by TV veteran Arjay Smith, to New York City for an academic competition, but suddenly discovers that she’s “preparing for future that no longer exists.” The scene where he confesses his reason for joining the competition team provides a sweet moment while reflecting a very basic human theme – to love and care for someone. It’s too bad it takes such life threatening drama to finally give him the courage to show his true feelings for her. Rossum doesn’t achieve a breakthrough performance (though she should develop further as Christine in the upcoming Phantom of the Opera film), while Gyllenhaal completes another convincing performance in a limiting role.
It would have been nice to see more of Ian Holm (The Fifth Element, The Sweet Hereafter), as Professor Terry Rapson. He manages a weather division in Scotland in the core of one of three huge supernatural storms brought on by apparent changes to the North Atlantic current. The disaster genre has made frequent offerings in recent years, but the most successful results come from filmmaking techniques that communicate effectively to the audience without shocking them into submission. Once you get past the global warming explanations, each action sequence involves familiar situations and environments punctuated with amazing special effects. You can really put yourself in the action as the three storm systems threaten the entire Northern Hemisphere.
Once the weather really hits the fan, Hall goes looking for Sam which yields another satisfying theme of basic humanity – a father finding his lost son. You might have issues with the time frame of the storm systems and the actual probability of the events that occur, but remember one thing – it’s a movie. Filmmakers want you to forget about logistics and get caught up in the special effects while adding some good laughs to ease the audience. The dialogue doesn’t get too heavy-handed until the ending speech as filmmakers leave you with a powerful visual and an implied, stark message – “take care of the planet!”
It’s hard to imagine how someone would feel when their very existence is shaken to the core. The amazing visuals stay with you, especially the Statue of Liberty encountering rising water that almost reach its torch. The top-notch special effects and sound enhance the overall experience, but filmmakers find partial success in multiple character storylines. This movie doesn’t stall the disaster movie genre, but doesn’t advance it much either. This two-hour and four-minute movie comes recommended with reservations (**1/2) and is rated PG-13 for violent weather conditions, immense casualties and scenes of great peril.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler