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Daylight Attempts to Resuscitate the Disaster Movie Genre
by Gary Johnson

Go to:
The official Web site for Daylight.

"What do we got?"
"Nothing. No pulse."
"No. Flatline."

Daylight is a valiant effort to revive that old warhorse, the disaster movie. It's got everything that made people love and hate this genre: lots of explosions and screaming, constant bickering by the lead characters, tense situations and maudlin sentiments, pulse-quickening close shaves and trite, soap opera melodramatics. If you loved movies such as Airport, Towering Inferno, and Earthquake, you'll love Daylight.

Daylight reworks much of the same territory as Poseidon Adventure, giving us a menagerie of people trapped in a large, but confined area, where the water level keeps rising. The movie dutifully sets up the lives of all the characters before the explosion takes place. We get a husband with a new wife and a resentful daughter. A writer who has just broken up with her lover, a married man. A busload of convicts in transport to prison. An egocentric athlete who thinks he can do anything. A cabbie who once was the chief of the Emergency Medical Services. These characters and several more are all thrown together in the underwater tunnel linking New York and New Jersey, when a traffic accident sparks a huge explosion. A tremendous fireball screams through the tunnel, killing hundreds of people. Huge chunks of concrete fall from the roof, the walls buckle and water gushes across the asphalt. The burnt out skeletons of cars and trucks litter the tunnel. But a few surviving men and women step forward.

Stallone descends to the trapped motorists through a ventilation shaft.

(©1996 Universal Pictures)

And, yeah, Sylvester Stallone is the star. It's hard to miss his name on the ads. But this isn't really a Stallone movie. Almost anyone could have taken the lead role. Whereas movies such as Cliffhanger and Rambo required big, muscle-bound heroes, this movie contains few sequences that really allow Stallone to show off his stuff. There's a harrowing crawl through a ventilation shaft, which is remarkable mainly for its stupidity. And there's a hand over hand climb to the ceiling of the tunnel, as Stallone plants an explosive device, but these scenes are largely attempts to justify Stallone's presence. For the most part, his role consists of keeping the people working together, part counselor, part stage manager.

Stallone and trapped motorists bicker about what to do next.

(©1996 Universal Pictures)

Daylight has its share of goofy moments and surreal dramatics, but it never really transcends the situations--maybe because it doesn't have a big, all-star cast, as do all of the aforementioned disaster movies. For example, it's one thing to see Claire Bloom (as we do in Daylight) holding her breath and swimming underwater and it's something else entirely to see Shelly Winters (as we did in Poseidon Adventure) trying to pass muster as an ex-swimming champion, bloated and waterlogged while flailing through underwater passages.

Ultimately, even the action scenes themselves become predictable and a bit boring. The water keeps rising. The characters move forward. They bicker with Stallone. He says lets do this. They follow him. They bicker some more. More water gushes on everyone. No one in this movie experiences anything remotely like shock. They're all too busy chatting and complaining. "How many grandchildren do you have?" "Three. Would you like to see their pictures?" Yeah, and you're surrounded by the charred remains of several hundred motorists!

Daylight contains a few remarkable images, such as Stallone going mano a mano with several big ventilation fans and Stallone desperately trying to hold onto a woman before she gets sucked away, but that's about all this movie has to offer. The characters emerge as little more than irritants who frequently get in the way of the action sequences while they're being herded out of the tunnel.

Too bad they didn't let the disaster genre rest in peace.

Universal Pictures Presents


Kit LaturaSylvester Stallone
Madelyne ThompsonAmy Brenneman
Roy NordViggo Mortensen
Frank KraftDan Hedaya
Steven CrightonJay O. Sanders
Sarah CrightonKaren Young
Eleanor TrillingClaire Bloom
Ashley CrightonDanielle Harris
GraceVanessa Bell Calloway
Norman BassettBarry Newman
George TyrellStan Shaw
Directed byRob Cohen
Produced byJohn Davis
Joseph M. Singer
David T. Friendly
Executive ProducerRaffaella De Laurentiis
Co-ProducerHester Hargett
Written byLeslie Bohem
Director of PhotographyDavid Eggby
Production DesignerBenjamin Fernandez
Costume DesignersThomas Casterline
Isis Mussenden
Edited byPeter Amundson
Music Composed byRandy Edelman
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