By Christian DiMartino
Daylight is, very much and in many ways, a film we have seen before. Here’s the thing though: with a movie like this, I don’t focus so much on the story as much as the craftsmanship and the technical aspects, and in that department, Daylight works well enough. Considering the genre, and how easy it can be to be bad, this one is pretty okay.
For those who don’t know what this film is, allow me to paint an image: Daylight plays very much like a vastly inferior version of The Poseidon Adventure, except this one is in a tunnel (that still ultimately floods), and it swaps out Gene Hackman for Sylvester Stallone. If that doesn’t sound very good to you, let me say that… well, it isn’t great, nor is it The Poseidon Adventure. What it is though, is entertaining, in the way that it takes what one would expect from a movie like this, and it delivers it.
Continuing with the tradition of Stallone’s mucho macho names, here he plays Kit Latura, an emergency medical services chief with a troubled past. After an explosion blocks New York’s Hudson Tunnel, and the people in it, at both ends, Latura, despite past controversies, is the only one who has had enough experience in this field to get the civilians out of there. They of course whine and complain, perhaps because they aren’t talking to Sylvester Stallone; they are talking to “Kit Latura.” Even at Stallone’s age, I’d still trust him to get me to safety. Said civilians include three time Oscar nominee Viggo Mortensen in the definition of a throwaway role. They also include Amy Brenneman, a hugely underrated actress from perhaps my favorite show, The Leftovers, as a writer who is braver than the other civilians.
Stallone is pretty good here. It’s not a great role by any means, perhaps because it has been done before. Yet he does what is required and asked of him, and he plays the part in a way that works. He’s a thoroughly nice person who cares about these people more than he should. Brenneman is good too, and the two play off of each other well. The rest of the cast of characters are pretty annoying. I placed myself in their shoes, and sure, I would have more than my fair share of complaints… but aren’t we supposed to care about these people? I did not, and Brenneman ends up being the whole one who is fully fleshed out.
Again though, nobody comes to a film like Daylight for character development or performances. No no no. They come to see property destruction and chaos; the characters are only here to serve as potential victims. In the destruction and chaos department, Daylight is ultimately a triumph. It is done with a decent amount of skill, with some pretty damn good sound design and production design. On a technical level, the film does work. It’s enough to make up for whatever predictability, unoriginality, and irritable characters are thrown our way for the sake of the destruction. The destruction is why we go to a movie like Daylight, and in 1996, this film really would’ve done the trick for a matinee on a rainy day. It did enough of the trick from the comfort of my home.
Note: I’m also really glad that this film neglected to throw in some sort of cliche villain. The destruction here is the only villain, as it should be.