Daylight (1996)

D: Rob Cohen
S: Sylvester Stallone, Amy Brenneman

In the year of the apocalypse which saw Independence Day and Twister return the disaster movie to prominence (following Die Hard With a Vengeance in 1995), Sylvester Stallone has had a go at combining his strong-jawed masculine heroes of the 1980s with the calm figure of innovation and caring at the centre of a logistical cataclysm in Rob Cohen's Daylight. The film nominally centres on the horrors which face motorists trapped in a New York tunnel sealed off following a car crash and subsequent explosion. Though a relatively limited setting for a film of this genre, it provides ample opportunities for the usual mixture of characters to face their fate and challenge the odds in their attempt to escape. Helping the hapless is former Medical Services coordinator Stallone, who, given the expected dark past, must gather all his wits (and equipment) to embark on a one-man mission to get those people out of there.

After a perfunctory set up followed by some pretty explosions, the film begins its assault on credibility with a breathtakingly mounted scene of Stallone entering the tunnel past a series of enormous fans which are temporarily stalled but which click into aurally terrifying life with alarming regularity based on his rate of descent. From here it never looks back, abandoning logic to a series of well mounted set pieces just as this genre is wont to do. But there is something of an overload here, and with characters so paper thin that its hard to care how or when they die, it actually doesn't hold out and becomes tiresome very quickly. Even by the standards of the genre, the film is contrived. Stallone's "plans" seem at best stupid and at worst laughable, and given that we presume he must improvise in a tough spot, it still comes off like a big budget McGyver rather than something remotely believable.

Of course no one expects a film of this type to concentrate on physical or psychological realism, but there is a limit to the audience's patience which Daylight reaches much too quickly. Independence Day held on by virtue of the logic of a self aware script, Twister almost made it past the finishing post because of its pyrotechnical excellence, but though Daylight is also technically marvellous and looks suitably complex and dangerous as a film making enterprise, it never becomes involving enough and is more like watching rushes than a finished film. This genre is far from dead, but this is the kind of movie which killed it last time around because the films became too plastic, too transparent and too silly for anyone to want to see any more.

Review by Harvey O'Brien copyright 1998.