What to say about this film? Gripping it certainly is, and follows closely that special genre of disaster movies. The story, special FX, casting, and acting are great, and it manages to be a global drama and local story very well. Only once or twice is excessive artistic license taken – but more on that in a minute.
Make no mistake – this is a brutal film. Not in a graphic blood-and-guts type way, but more that, throughout the film there is constant wholesale slaughter! And it’s not just the nameless millions being topped – the film seems to introduce characters, spend some time with them, give a bit of back story, build some empathy, only to have them squashed under a bus, hit by a rooF, drowned, or frozen to death! Indeed, at one point in the film I began to seriously wonder if any of the main characters were going to be alive at the end of the film! Very unusual for this type of film – I normally find I know exactly who is and isn’t going to make it, much like the poor doomed ‘new-actor-playing-an-ensign-on-an-away-mission’ in Star Trek.
However, and it’s a pretty big however, this film can very close to being completely ruined but stupid ‘technical’ gaffes, and some poor directing/screen-writing. For me, the whole point of a film like this is escapism, and as soon as something happens to make you aware you’re watching a film the mood is lost. I know films like Scary Movie employ post-modern self-knowing irony, but this is not Scary Movie! I could swallow the pitch about The Storm, I choked a bit on The Instant Freeze Air Stream, but – come on guys – pay-phones which work underwater?? When the rest of the city has lost power for hours? Come to that, cellphones still working after all the power’s out? Worst of all, the New York contingent hole up in the Public Library, in a conference type room with a large open foreplace – fair enough. But then proceed to only burn books. Shame there’s not an almost endless supply of wood to burn, like chairs and study-desks, eh? And don’t bother gathering around the fire, trying to make a heat reflector from tables, etc to keep the heat in – l no, no, no – just spread yourself around the room on sofas.. careful not to get within 15 ft of the fire tho, it might warm you up. Oh yes, and no need to worry about the floor to ceiling single pane leaded windows – I’m sure there’s no benefit to stacking it full of books for insulation.. hell, no need to even bother drawing the curtains. Grrrrrr – gets my goat up – would have have added nothing to the budget to get that group make a serious attempt at survival.
Arguably worse than that is the shocking depiction of time. The bulk of the film apparantly takes place over a fortnight or so, yet (apart from occasional clues in the dialog), it feels more like a few hours. You shouldn’t have to feed in lines like ‘She’s only eaten crisps and chocolate for the lasst 3 days’ to indicate that 3 days have passed since the group where shown breaking into the vending machine about 10 minutes ago! It happened lots, and each time it was a shock (so you mean that arty shot of him walking on the snow was actually 2 days hiking then?) This is perhaps a harder issue to solve, but some advance ‘time about to pass’ warning would do – like ‘We’re just north of wherever – should be another 2 days to New York’. Or even ‘Ok, we’re walking from here – shouldn’t take more than a week’. Perhaps it’s just that most people look exactly the same throughout, despite being trapped for days without food or washing facilities, in sub-zero temperatures. Even their clothes are hardly soiled!
I don’t want to sound too harsh – I did enjoy it, but I think the film would have greatly benefited from a little more time thinking about how a good of kids would be affected by being stuck in their situation for a week, how you would really survive in those conditions, and how the passage of time could be made clearer.
Seen at Ster Century, Leeds