Day After Tomorrow
Reviewed by Carla Freccero
Aired 6/15 and
playing in cinemas everywhere, The Day After Tomorrow is directed
by Roland Emmerich, who also directed Independence Day. It stars
Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ian Holm and Emmy Rossum, with
a host of other minor roles played by favorite "type"
actors. One would think that at the moment disaster movies might
be too touchy for most U.S. audiences. So that's probably why
this one is about catastrophic weather. In non-terrorist-scare
times, catastrophic weather is a real material issue for United
Statesians, and it's also a popular subject for TV movies and
the like, an easy way for us to get our frisson of believable
terror. But this one is more reassuring than that, recognizing
that perhaps everyone's too delicate for even the plausible
human-induced natural disaster events.
This one, in other words, is patently ridiculous: because of
global warming, several holes open up in the atmosphere, creating
massively cooling vortices that mimic the ice age and cause
radical temperature drops and huge storms all over the world.
Not that it couldn't happen-I know nothing about the science
involved-but here it all happens in a matter of weeks, from
ominous start to complete finish. So the audience can relax,
laugh at the premises, and enjoy the exciting special effects,
fast pace, and infinitely silly dialogue that ensue. This movie
is good, absorbing fun, and I recommend it highly for sheer
Dennis Quaid is Jack Hall, the climatologist-he's the one who
figures out what's going on, receiving encouragement and confirmation
from an illustrious Scottish scientist played by Ian Holm. Of
course, our government won't listen-and interestingly enough
the movie features a truly evil vice-president and an ineffectual
but right-minded president. So the disaster arrives.
Great shots of tornados destroying downtown Los Angeles, New
York City swallowed by tidal waves, etc. Meanwhile the human
drama involves Quaid and Gyllenhaal, who plays his son, Sam.
Dad has neglected the kid, always too busy on some mission or
other to spend time with him. He's separated from Mom (Sela
Ward), who's a doctor. Nothing like a catastrophe to get one's
priorities in order. The son demonstrates that he's learned
all the combined sensible and courageous qualities of his parents.
He is the exemplary citizen: responsible for others, generous,
smart, practical, you name it. And actually, I'm really pleased
at this vision of a good person-the character Gyllenhaal plays
really does have all the qualities one could hope for.
The Day after Tomorrow also has a sense of humor; there's a
lot of banter about book burning in the NY Public Library and
various amusing jabs at the government. The most refreshing
thing about the film are its surprisingly progressive politics-not
only green politics, which you'd expect in a global warming
disaster movie, but also its anti-government argument, its quips
about the US-Mexico border and US refugees "illegally"
crossing the Rio Grande, and finally a whole discourse about
the generosity of the southern hemisphere as it hosts fleeing
hordes of northerners. One is tempted to think of this as the
empire's final fantasy, that when we finally destroy our part
of the world, we will be welcomed with open arms-as regular
well-meaning people prey to an unscrupulous and evil government-by
So, in spite of the lame dialogue and the patently ridiculous
and pretentiously delivered scientific information, this movie
is excellent entertainment, with some decent politics thrown
Looking for trouble at the movies, for KUSP and the film gang,
this is Carla Freccero.