22 Jul 2015

DISASTER FILMS - Daylight (1996)

Films have formulas and rules, but how well do Disaster films follow those formulas?

Daylight (1996) is about the collapse of a tunnel under the Hudson River, and the survivors trapped in it.

The following will include spoilers for

Daylight (1996)

RULE #1 - Characters

"I asked your name!" ~ Mrs London.
"Why don't you forget what her name is? Listen to what she's saying to you." ~ Norman Bassett.
  • Male lead - Kit Latura.  Has a theory (based on a terrorist hypothetical two years earlier) about causing a collapse to keep the survivors safe from the fire.  He was, however, fired after he lead men into an unsafe building resulting in their deaths and now works as a taxi driver.  He does, of course, lots of action heroy stuff.
  • An important person - Mrs London.  Doesn't appear before or cause the disaster, but pushes for an operation that will reopen the tunnel quickly at the expense of any survivors.
  • Female lead - Madelyn Thompson.  Not connected to the hero at all, until after they meet in the tunnel.
  • The usurped official - Norman Bassett.  Not usurped before the disaster, but Mrs London does during it.  May count as The officious but incompetent person.
  • The experienced tradesman - Acting Chief Frank Kraft.  Despite their personal history, he still likes Latura.  He agrees with Bassett and disagrees with London.
  • Minor celebrity - Roy Nord.  Doesn't demand special treatment, but as famous climber he thinks he can find the way out.
  • The criminal - There are four prisoners caught with the others.
  • A typical family - The Crightons,Steve & Sarah and teen daughter Ashley.
  • The loving couple - George Tyrell & Grace Calloway.  A new couple, he is trapped, she's part of the outside organisation.
  • The bickering couple Steve & Sarah Crighton.  Although they start of not bickering trying to keep the family together (Ashley is the bickerer) but Sarah does start to stand-up for herself during the disaster.  Ashley forgives Steve in the end.
  • The tired couple - The Trillings, Eleanor & Roger.  They seem OK, but are both inwardly grieving about the death of their only child.
  • The child - Ashley is the closest.  A half melted T-Rex toy is shown, indicating the probably off-screen death of at least one child.
  • Animals - Cooper, the Trilling's dog.
  • The older woman - Eleanor Trilling, grieving a lost child, obsessed with her dog, Cooper.
  • Not appearing in this film - The new man; Someone religiousThe joker; The wash-out, Relatives of the important guy; A nerdy/geeky expert.

RULE #2 - Sex & Nudity

"I found this under my bed." ~ .George Tyrell.
"Could you be a little less discreet?" ~ Grace Calloway.
  • Nudity - No nudity, even the wet shirt bits after swimming aren't revealing.
  • Sex - No sex.  References to two extra-marital affairs: Steve Crightons, who has returned to his family after leaving for an affair and Madelyn Thompson

RULE #3 - The Disaster

"The New Jersey side has completely collapsed!" ~ .George Tyrell.
  • Manmade Disaster - Collapse of a man-made tunnel caused by thieves crashing into illegal dumpers.
  • Unreal -  As always, some of the events seem a little unrealistic.
  • True story - It may be loosely based on a fire in the Holland Tunnel in 1949.  It also mentions Marshall Mabey's survival of a blowout when the two men he was with died to justify the lead characters survival at the end. 
  • The moment - Obviously the moment that the thieves' car hits the truck of toxic chemicals, causing a string of explosions.
  • Ongoing - With the collapse of both ends, people are trapped in the middle, with a toxic fire, minor collapses.
  • Sudden end - Once the leads escape, certainly.

RULE #4 - Endangered

"You bring in heavy equipment, cause a pressure shift, the whole thing could implode." ~ Bloom.
  • Warnings - No time for warnings.
  • Warning issued too late - No time for warnings.
  • An Event -  No event.
  • Rescuers -  Latura goes into the tunnel (through dangerous fans).  He later goes from safety to being trapped because he went back to rescue a dog.  Madelyn also became trapped trying rescue him.  EMS Chief Dennis Wilson is another rescuer death.
  • The stubborn - EMS Chief Dennis Wilson is stubborn (refusing to listen to Latura's advice) and when told by Bloom that she's found that a way down can't be done, he goes down himself getting killed immediately after.
  • Unheard warnings - Latura  tried to warn Roy not to try escaping via the mid-river passage, but the radio dropped out again.
  • Meetings - There is one in the tunnel monitoring room between staff, the some EMS workers and London.  The meeting is about giving up on possible survivors to relieve the traffic problem cause (although, it's not clear how they would instantly fix the tunnel to allow traffic through).
  • Fear - The prisoner Mikey was too scared to leave the prison van, trapping him and Madelyn in their when the power line fell (they eventually escaped.
  • Criminal activity - The collapse was cause by the combination of two sets of criminal activity.
  • Arguments - A few, not significantly endangering.
  • Did not happen - Sneaking out.

RULE #5 - Destruction

"So, this explosion that we're setting could cause the whole thing to cave in, right?" ~ Madelyn Thompson.
  • Panoramic opening - Not beautiful or overly panoramic, but some establishing shots of a run down industrial area.
  • Warning bouts of destruction - No warning bouts of destruction, but there are for later mini-collapses, etc.
  • Landmarks - No landmarks destroyed. but if the tunnel was real it would probably be one.
  • The tipping point - Pretty much the the big explosion, although later flooding also counts..
  • Ongoing destruction - As noted above, there is ongoing destruction.
  • The final event - The final event is the collapse caused by the attempts to clear the tunnel.  They just managed to escape before it happened.

RULE #6 - Death

"Oh, God, we got fatalities down here!" George Tyrell.
  • Prelude deaths - None.
  • Mass casualties - The unknown, but very large number of deaths in the initial collapse.
  • The black guy Kadeem & George.  Yes, two of the four the deaths are black men.  A black woman and a latino male survive.
  • Slow death - Kadeem & George.  Kadeem has the traditional slow death, while George has a horrible injury and has to be left to die.
  • Bad options - Nord, full of over-confidence refuses to listen to Latura and dies.
  • The older woman - Eleanor Trilling, dies of hypothermia.
  • The experienced tradesman - Survives.
  • One half of a couple - Elenor Trilling, dies of hypothermia.
  • Children - Ashley Crighton (teen) survives.
  • Pets - Cooper, the Trilling's dog survives.  One of his owners, Eleanor, dies, but he is missing at the time.
  • The male lead - Latura survives.
  • Deaths not occuring Panic; The important guy; The usurped official; The good coward; The bad coward; Sacrifice; Reminders of danger; The noble death.

RULE #7 - Last Ditch Group

"The person who says it can't be done is always interrupted 
by the one who just did it!" ~ Chief Dennis Wilson.

  • Heroes - Only really Latura.
  • Survivors  A small group of miraculously uninjured survivors who must struggle to escape.

RULE #8 - Ridiculous Solutions

"Gotta get up to the ceiling and blast out the mud.  
If it works, the pressure will take us right to the top." ~ 
Kit Latura.

  • Outrun -  A few times collapsing tunnels and flooding waters have to be outrun.
  • A plan  Latura has a plan from the beginning, which he executes about a third of the way through.  He also has an event more ridiculous escape plan at the end.
  • Big & simple -   Both require blowing things up.
  • Critical fail -  A tanker moves, resulting in  Latura having to detonate the explosion where it could crush him.
  • Time -  Outside, the rescuers are going to open up the tunnel, which will kill the survivors.
  • Instant -  The main plan isn't, it just reduces the danger from the fire (that didn't seem to be worrying anyone anyway.  The final plan is.
  • Dangerous -  It required dangerous climbing and an explosion in an unstable tunnel.
  • Explosive -  All of Latura's plans required explosions.

RULE #9 - Happily Ever After

"Get them back to daylight." ~ George Tyrell.

  • Reunited:  Not together to be reunited.
  • Together:  The female lead does say she thinks she want to go to the hospital with the male lead.
  • Vindicated:  His plan was vindicated.  Theoretically he probably also gained redemption for the lives he caused to be lost previously.
  • Retribution:  No indication that it was nature's retribution.
  • Lesson:  No lesson, but the teenage daughter did accept her cheating father again.
  • Or not...:  As noted, no lesson.
  • Sunrise:  The characters were heading towards the tunnel in daylight and arrived in the dark, so it was early evening.  When  Latura and Madelyn are fished out of the river it's daytime.
  • Beautiful:  Cityscape, a little.

RULE #10 - Sequels

"Well, considering I'm homeless and broke and carless... and I'm not lookin' my best, I think I'll ride with you."  ~ Madelyn Thompson.
"One condition." Kit Latura.
 "What's that?"  ~ Madelyn.
"We gotta take the bridge." Latura.
  • Sequels -  No sequels.
  • Remakes - No remakes.
No sequels.    However, notes are made for future reference.
  • More deaths - Probably a hundred or so in the tunnel explosion.  The surviving group of ten has four deaths.
  • More effects - Possibly about the same amount of effects, but...
  • Better effects - Better effects than the 70s films.
  • More Formulaic - Seems to copy parts of The Poseidon Adventure a little too closely.
~ DUG.
Please do the survey to determine future rule sets.

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