FILM REVIEW: ‘Dante’s Peak’ (1997)

*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Disaster movies are an interesting category in the film industry. Focused more on spectacle and horror found in natural, or sometimes unnatural, disasters, these types of films are the kind that are either loved or hated by audiences. I myself have never been intrigued to watch many, though that is because they don’t seem like my cup of tea. However, this particular film got me gripped in a lot of ways.

CREDIT: worldsciencefestival.com

One of the film’s aspects that caught me in awe was its use of science to drive its story and characters. No excuse is made to be solely selfish or greedy, even if that does play a part in one of America’s most loved locations, but rather to get the facts before causing any kind of disturbance in the small town. Of course, it all becomes hugely disastrous, but there is some logic in the planning and you cannot entirely place the fault on anyone. You can’t be too careful or too impulsive with volcanoes that may have awakened after being dormant for so long. True, the film isn’t entirely accurate, especially when they use a somewhat faulty robot as aid, but the route it attempts to walk is interesting to watch for the most part and closer to what scientists would likely strive towards.

The film is shot quite well, managing to contrast between the beautiful scenery of its northwest setting and the intense terror of escaping the wrath of the volcano. One of the first scenes involve the couple sitting in a warm pool near the dreaded mountain; it is cheerful, calm and romantic at first, but before long it turns into something out of a horror movie as the water begins to boil. This scene alone foreshadows the horrors that we face later in the film, particularly when lava fills water.

As mentioned before, no character in this film is entirely right or wrong, selfless or selfish. Each cast member gives a performance fitting of the movie and of their character. This is especially true of its two leads, Pierce Brosnan as volcanologist Harry Dalton and Linda Hamilton as Mayor Rachel Wando, who share good chemistry and give performances that allow us to believe these people are facing a deadly crisis that even they aren’t sure they can survive.

CREDIT: helsinkitimes.fi

The best part of the film is its final moments, when the leads and Wando’s children are trapped in a collapsed mine after escaping the last of the volcano. As Dalton attempts to send a signal whilst trying not to be crushed by the rubble surrounding the car, it becomes a moment of true intensity as he struggles through every inch and we are begging for his survival and the family’s survival too. (They do survive, of course!)

It may be a cheesy blockbuster fitting of the nineties, but nevertheless there is something to gain from this film. For me, its attempted use of science and the intense action sequences, and its final scenes in the mine, had me on edge and intrigued to the end. Take this film for what it’s worth, and for me, it was worth one hell of a hot ride.

RATING: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

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