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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Ric Roman Waugh
scr Chris Sparling
prd Basil Iwanyk, Sebastien Raybaud, Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel
with Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, Scott Glenn, Hope Davis, David Denman, Andrew Byron Bachelor, Merrin Dungey, Holt McCallany, Suehyla El-Attar, Gary Weeks, Claire Bronson
release US 18.Dec.20
20/US STX 1h59
Is it streaming?
With the standard disaster movie set-up, this film establishes a strained family in the opening scenes, then sends them through a literally earth-shattering wringer. Director Ric Roman Waugh stages this on a big scale, with realistic depictions of panic. Nothing about the script or direction is subtle, but the relentless momentum keeps it gripping. And even if the movie feels naggingly predictable, it's packed with genuinely heart-stopping action.
Amid reports of a spectacular comet fly-by, Atlanta architect John (Butler) is trying to reconnect with estranged wife Allison (Baccarin) for the sake of their 7-year-old son Nathan (Floyd). But the comet's fragments begin hitting Earth, and now the news is reporting an impending "planet killer" impact. In a lottery, the family is selected to be given shelter, but they are separated in the ensuing chaos. Allison and Nathan head to her father Dale (Glenn) for help, while John hitches a ride alongside Colin (Bachelor), who tells him that Greenland is the only safe destination.
The initial impacts are watched with fascination on live television, as the seriousness of the situation becomes increasingly clear. There are wrenching scenes as John's family must leave their unselected neighbours behind. Of course, the confusion leads to mass hysteria, as people rebel against the random selection of people for evacuation, so most of the worst stuff that happens is man-made and genuinely nasty. Thankfully, as the situation becomes fraught due to truly monstrous behaviour, some people demonstrate selfless compassion.
Performances are delivered with full-tilt desperation, but Butler and Baccarin get some lower key moments as their characters try to keep calm for their son's sake. And even with everything happening, their marital issues won't remain back-burnered. Floyd keeps up with them nicely, and Glenn offers some gruff, matter-of-fact charm in one of the brief quiet segments. Along the way they meet a range of people who provide added textures, including a couple (Davis and Denman) who offers a lift that takes an unexpected turn.
The film is carefully contrived to keep the audience out of breath. Waugh cleverly deploys effects to ramp up the action exponentially, and also provide hints of wry humour, such as crowds cheering the comet's destructive light show. But even as the situation becomes increasingly horrific, we never doubt where the story is heading. At least there's a moment about two-thirds in that allows us to catch a breath before the final onslaught. Cue the "molten debris" shower and hang on tight.
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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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