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THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW (article first published : 2004-06-23)

Roland Emmerich is a director with a penchant for the annihilation of famous city landmarks on the big screen - such as Washington's White House in Independence Day and the skycrapers of Manhattan in Godzilla.

Now he's flooding New York City, freezing over the Statue of Liberty, ripping the hillside Hollywood sign to shreds with tornadoes, hurling hailstones the size of pawpaws over Tokyo, dropping snow in Delhi and generally turning the Northern Hemisphere into a chilling no-go zone.

The film, of course, is the eagerly awaited The Day after Tomorrow, teaming Dennis Quaid, Jake Gyllenhaal and Sela Ward as father, son and mom. It's a glossy, two-hour disaster epic with some impressive special effects but with a fair amount of repetition and, it must be noted, a story that is predictable, clichèd and riddled with not unexpected, sentimental subplots hinged on honour, fear, courage, sacrifice and the eternal power of love.

Emmerich's cause of all the disaster and destruction this time around is no alien invasion or monster dinosaur but Mother Nature herself. And she's one mean mother - global warming having got her down to the point that she unleashes freak weather to blanket our globe, leading to earnest Washington palaeoclimatologist Jack Hall (Quaid) realising that a new ice age is on the way.

The headstrong sidekick of the US president, of course, refuses to believe Hall's warnings of danger and pleas to evacuate most of the upper half of the country. Then all hell breaks loose, including New York being hit by a tidal wave that slowly starts freezing over.

With his 17-year-old son, Sam (Gyllenhaal), becoming trapped with others in the Big Apple's public library - which just happens to have a large room filled with coats, scarves and blankets for the scores of people who seek shelter from the storm there - Jack decides on a great trek, on foot, from Washington, to find and rescue him. Besides the plummeting temperature and lack of food, young Sam and pals also have to contend with the dangers of a prowling pack of hungry wolves escaped from a zoo.

The film has some truly dreadful moments - not least among them, Sam's girlfriend slowly rubbing herself against his exposed body to keep him warm and Jack having to explain current and climate interaction to a boardroom packed with weather experts. But it's the gee-whiz spectacle of the destuction for which most people will be forking out to see this film and they will probably feel they get their money's worth.

The film also gets a nod of satisfaction for sparking pause for concern over countries being lax about the dangers of global warming.

And extra points for Emmerich for a delicious, ironic sequence which shows swarms of Americans crossing the US border illegally into Mexico. Also featuring Ian Holm (as a wise old meteorologist) and 80s mini-series king Perry King (as the American premier), The Day After Tomorrow gets a rating of 6/10. - Billy Suter




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