The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

The Day After Tomorrow

Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emmy Rossum, Ian Holm, Sela Ward

Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow has taken quite a bit of flak for being scientifically preposterous.

Um…yeah. And? It’s a disaster movie, folks. If it has one problem, it is that it’s too long and don’t kill off enough main characters (okay, two problems).

I can see what the detractors mean. The Day After Tomorrow is rooted in the very real threat of global climate change, but instead of delivering a credible warning it amps up the drama to slightly ridiculous levels. When Jake Gyllenhall and his friends actually outrun a wave of lethal instant freeze and then manage to survive -100 degrees Celsius by huddling together and burning books…well, it’s kind of like when Will Smith uploads the computer virus at the end of Independence Day (yes, that’s Emmerich again).

But is it entertaining? Hell yeah! If you want a well-reasoned and scientifically sound discussion about climate change, may I suggest An Inconvenient Truth or something in that vein? Meanwhile, if you want to see giant waves drench New York City and equally huge tornadoes ripping Los Angeles to shreds, here’s a movie for you.

Actually, it might be fair to describe The Day After Tomorrow as the Armageddon of climate change flicks (there’s a narrow sub-genre if you ever wanted one) – ridiculously OTT but entertaining. Strangely, I personally can’t stand Armageddon because of the very same flaws I’m willing to forgive The Day After Tomorrow for. So go ahead, call me a hypocrite.

Anyway. I apologise for the long preamble. Plot: Scientists discover signs that serious climate change, thought to be many decades into the future, might be starting right now. They are right. In a matter of days the northern hemisphere has been devastated by storms, floods, hail and incredible temperature drops.

Our hero is climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), who first tries in vain to convince the American government that they should do something about the environment, and then spends the rest of the film trying to reach New York to find and save his son (Gyllenhaal).

It’s a simple movie. The plot is basically just the rescue expedition. There’s troubled relationships, teenage love and philosophical conversations in moments when most people would be thinking primarily about surviving (all of which is to be expected from a disaster movie).

But this flick’s raison d’etre is the spectacular and, in general, very well executed disaster scenes. With the exception of a pack of wolves, the CGI is excellent, and Emmerich brings visually impressive carnage on a massive scale. The flooding of New York is perhaps the most arresting sequence. At 124 minutes it’s too long, but Emmerich keeps it humming along nicely with lots of action, so even if a somewhat trimmed-down edit would have been preferable, it’s acceptable as it is.

Just try to remember that Hollywood action directors aren’t the people you should turn to for information about environmental issues. Okay?

Rating: 4/5

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