A crater the size of Rhode Island breaks off from the polar ice caps. Volleyball-sized hail falls in Japan. New Dehli experiences a snow storm. Typhoons, Hurricanes, high winds and unstable weather systems keep being reported worldwide, and this is only the beginning. Director Roland Emmerich gives us a thrilling look at what might happen if Global Warming continues, in this popcorn movie, action thriller.
Climatologist Jack Hall is forecasting a possible new Ice Age for the Earth developing as a result of extreme Global warming. The problem is that no-one, not even the Vice President (Kenneth Welsh) believes him. After weather buoys begin failing in the North Atlantic current, fellow Climatologist, Terry Rapson (Ian Holm), confers with Hall and they conclude that the Earth has little time. Infact they believe a massive weather pattern in forming as a result of the North Atlantic current being thrown out of balance because of the Polar ice caps continually melting and dumping fresh water into the sea. The storm is causing super-cooled air down from the arctic and anything…or anybody caught in its direct path will freeze immediately. After a series of devastating tornadoes destroy Los Angeles, people finally start to take things seriously. The problem is massive flooding and high winds have caused all flights, buses and trains to be shut down. Hall goes before the Vice President once more and urges him to evacuate the northern cities of the United States, but the VP refuses and is more worried about the effect of things on the economy.
Hall and his wife (Sela Ward) soon become concerned about there son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is in New York City for a High School decathalon with two classmates, including Laura (Emily Rossum), whom Sam has a crush on. When the flooding gets worse and knocks out the power to the city, Sam suggests they quickly find higher ground in the Public Library building. In a chilling moment, the ocean water begins to rapidly rise and completely envelopes the Statue of Liberty on its way to the main island, where a massive wall of water crushes its way down the city streets, taking cars, buses and people with it. Sam, Laura and a few friends make there way to the Library and barely survive the onslaught. Rapson confers with Hall one last time before being cut off from the storm, and tells him to “save as many as you can.” Sam manages to use a pay phone to call his father, who tells him to stay inside, burn what he can for heat and that he is coming for him.
Before heading out to retrieve his son, Hall is asked to brief the President (Perry King) and recommends the immediate evacuation of the southern half of the U.S. In an ironic twist of fate, as soon as American refugees begin to cross the border by the thousands, Mexico closes its borders and refuses to allow anymore people in. This causes Americans to “hop the border” and illegally enter Mexico, until the U.S. President negotiates and agrees to forgive all Latin-American debt in exchange for opening the border to Americans. This is a little far-fetched, but far from the only such moment in the film that will produce a “What the hell?” response from its viewers. The film is your standard disaster movie, complete with a lot of technical jargen designed to give the film a sense of credibility and plausability in otherwise “yeah right” types of situations. We’re thrown a lot of terms and fancy grids and graphics on computer screens in an effort to help explain whats going on.
The cast, like all such movies, does what it can with the script. Quaid is more believable as the concerned father, than as a leading scientist, but performs the role admirably. Gyllenhaal is likable in the shy boy genuis role he has come to be type-casted in, and has a sweet on-screen chemistry with Emily Rossum, who performs averagly in the damsel in distress role, but fails to convincingly portray the smart-girl know-it-all she’s supposed to be playing. In the end, however, the cast is almost a side note in these types of movies and they either fail or succeed based on there plot and believability and execution of key visual effects scenes. Thankfully, this is where the film succeeds, and has brilliantly done visual effects sequences that captivate and thrill the viewer, and effectively make us forget about the occassional hole in the plot, or bad apple in the cast. Most of the people we meet in the film are for only a few minutes, and the script does what it can to make us care before they are quickly killed off moments later. Perhaps the most memorable example of this is during the L.A. tornado sequence where we see a reporter pointing out the damage to the city and moments later is slammed into by a large billboard flying threw the air.
“The Day After Tomorrow” is an okay movie, but nothing more, with periods that are excellent and periods that will no-doubt bore you to tears, but they balance one another out fairly well. There is humor to be found, much in the first third of the film is provided by Ian Holm’s character, and later on a humerous debate occurs between the survivors in the Library as to which books are appropriate to burn. Overall, it is a clear cut example of a movie you will enjoy more if you shut your brain off and just enjoy the ride.