Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) is a writer whose passion for his novel breaks up his marriage to Kate (Amanda Peet). As the end of the Mayan calendar approaches with its doomsday message, the earth's plates start to shift - destroying LA in the process. Jackson and his family begin a desperate journey to survive. At the highest levels of government, President Thomas Wilson (Danny Glover), his chief science advisor Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and quick-tempered Chief of Staff Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt) know what is happening and the president's daughter Laura (Thandie Newton) is shocked when she discovers how her father has hidden the truth for the rest of the world.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's big and cheesy and if you're in the mood for a dose of exaggerated end-of-world chaos, this is the popcorn movie for you. Roland Emmerich has gleefully combined every possible disaster extreme with child-like enthusiasm, making full use of massive visual effects to tell the tale. It's all about scale and everything tips the top end of the scales. Emotionally, don't expect too much. Characters are only pawns to the spectacular effects, the bigger than big scenarios, the extravagant production design, impressive sound and music whose swell matches the power of the crashing waves.
The earth opens up; skyscrapers fall like playing cards, roads sink, freeways collapse, concrete cracks open, glass shatters, trees dance eerily before crashing to the ground. Chaos is everywhere. And that's just the beginning.
Although the central storyline revolves around John Cusack's visionary writer, his estranged wife (Amanda Peet) and young children, it is Chiwetel Ejiofor's geologist Dr Adrian Helmsley who comes out best. Ejiofor manages to make even the most predictable, hackneyed lines sound credible, and if we care about anyone at all, he is my pick. There's an implied romance too, between Adrian and Laura (Thandie Newton), the conscience-stricken daughter of the President.
Although in an extravaganza such as this, we do not necessarily expect an out of the box storyline, I was somewhat disappointed at the formulaic, predictable nature of it all. The selfless President (Danny Glover), the pushy self-serving Chief of Staff (Oliver Platt), the Russian billionaire (Zlatko Buric is terrific) who believes his money can buy everything and Woody Harrelson with long hair and a wild look in his eye as the mad-as-a-hatter prophet.
There are earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches, plane crashes and ships are overturned. Everyone is trying to get to China, where a solution lies for the VIPs (world leaders) and the super-rich (who can afford one billion Euros per person). If it's big, Roland Emmerich has included it, so get ready to see the Sistine Chapel disintegrate, Hawaii become a red lava mass, Vegas sink, the Eiffel Tower clipped, runways collapse and the side of Mt Everest shake. A movie such as this used to be called a B movie. These days, B stands for Budget and we know that is Big.
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CAST: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson
PRODUCER: Harald Kloser, Mark Gordon, and Larry Franco
DIRECTOR: Roland Emmerich
SCRIPT: Harald Kloser & Roland Emmerich
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dean Semler ACS ASC
EDITOR: David Brenner, A.C.E., Peter S. Elliot
MUSIC: Harald Kloser and Thomas Wander
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Barry Chusid
RUNNING TIME: 151 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 12, 2009