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DANTE'S PEAK (1997)
When the volcano above Dante's Peak begins acting suspiciously, volcanologist Harry Dalton and local city mayor, Rachel Wando, try to convince local city members and scientists at large that Dante's Peak is, indeed, dangerous and potentially deadly. But when economic interests interfere, the safety of the people of Dante's Peak is compromised, with only Dalton and Wando willing to help them.
Screenplay by: Leslie Bohem.
Directed by: Roger Donaldson.
Promotional Lines: "The pressure is building."
After recording abnormal readings at their Vancouver, Washington office, Volcanologist Harry Dalton (Pierce ), arrives in the little mountain town of Dante's Peak, which is located at the base of the Dante's Peak volcano in the Cascades. After making some grim discoveries during his visual inspection and investigation of the mountain, Harry and the town's mayor, Rachel Wando (Linda Hamilton), call a council meeting to vote on whether to follow Harry's recommendation of putting the town on alert for a possible volcanic eruption. Putting the town on alert is upsetting to some on the council, because this little town was just voted the second best place to live in the United States, under 20,000 people, and in line for some investment money from wealthy businessman, Elliot Blair (Tim Haldeman), that would create new jobs. At the crucial moment, Harry's boss, Paul Dreyfus (Charles Hallahan), arrives, steps over Harry's recommendations and tells the council not to jump to conclusions, without concrete proof, after chastising Harry for overreacting and putting the town's economic future at risk. Dreyfus, Harry Dalton, and their scientific crew do however set up shop in the local motel to monitor the volcano, as it prepares to arouse soon from its dormant state.
A second storyline also begins at the beginning of the film involves the developing relationship between Harry and single mother Mayor Rachel Wando, and Harry and her children, Lauren (Jamie Renee Smith) and Graham (Jeremy /Foley). When the volcano starts to "clear it's throat," the children go up the mountain to get their paternal grandmother, Ruth (Elizabeth Hoffman), who refuses to leave her home. Rachel and Harry follow them up, where they all find themselves in the middle of havoc and adventure, trying to stay one step ahead of certain death and arrive to safety, staying barely out of reach of nature's fury.
This riveting action disaster screenplay, by Leslie Bohem, besides giving us a great adventure story of survival, fueled by the determined human spirit, it also explores the various aspects of human nature, and how different types of people react to disastrous events, upcoming or present, in their lives. As in most action movies, the emphasis is on the actions of characters and their situation acting on them, and not riveting, talky dialog.
Roger Donaldson, director of such action films as "Thirteen Days," "No Way Out," does a great job keeping the pace on track, directing this fine, talented cast, and orchestrating the action sequences and special effects. Interestingly, Donaldson had originally been trained in the geology field, and made sure that the script reflected correct, scientific material concerning volcanoes. Three Volcanologists, David Harlow, John Lockwood, and Norman Macleod, advised Donaldson and others to add to the authenticity of the story.
Pierce , who is in every scene does an excellent job as the dedicated, sincere Volcanologist Harry Darlton, and makes it all believable, doing more than his share to carry the story, as the main hero. His character portrays the ideal human being who would bring the most good to a bad situation, which Bronson plays in a natural and convincing manner. Harry, who cares deeply about saving lives at the expense of politics, is a kind, considerate man with a soft spot for kids and women. Harry is also a brave, calm man in the face of disaster, with the mental ability to think quickly in near death situations, while comforting scared children and unnerved women.
Linda Hamilton also does a great job playing a likable, unassuming, down to earth town mayor, Rachel Wando, who is also a single mother of two children. Rachel appreciates Harry for who he is, and what he did on the mountain while investigating the hot springs, despite the problems he caused her with the city council. As the story progresses, she sees him as a man she can depend on for many things, unlike her ex-husband who had walked out of her life.
and Hamilton together sizzle on the screen, and they make the most of their lines together. What might be lacking in the content of their scripted dialog, they more than make it up in their great convincing delivery, as they react to each other's performances.
Jeremy Folely and Jamie Renee Smith are convincing as Rachel's children, who love their grandma, and find themselves in scary situations that they don't know how to handle, and must depend on the adults around them, especially Harry Darlton.
Character actress, Elizabeth Hoffman, gives a fine performance as a stubborn, independent grandma who at first refuses to leave her home, because she thinks that the mountain won't destroy her.
Also worth pointing out is the late Charles Hallahan's performance as Paul Dreyfus, Harry's boss, who at first opposes Harry's decisions, but in the end admits that Harry was right.
The visual and special effects are the other big stars in this film. They are so realistic that one feels and sees the awesome power of nature; the destructive earthquakes, the heat from the lava flow, the oozing acid in the boat, the rain of ashes, the raging waters, the death cloud wind storm, and the terror of a collapsing mine! The ash was made up of ground up paper, that was liberally blown around the on location sets, becoming very annoying to the people involved in the shooting, as it was getting into every human crevice, let alone everyone's hair. Buildings were built to fall down on cue.
The film was shot in the small town of Wallace, in northern Idaho, because the town was surrounded by mountains, and the only way out of town was a freeway road. The volcano was digitally added to the film later, so the town looks like it was located right up against the mountain. Lava flows were also digitally added.
The musical score, by John Frizzell ("Alien Resurrection" and "Thirteen Ghosts") and the main theme music, by James Newton Howard ("The Sixth Sense") catch the spirit of the storyline, and complement well what is happening in the script.
A favorite sequence of scenes in the film starts when Harry, Rachel, the children and Ruth have just escaped a lava flow which destroyed Ruth's house, and they jump into a small rowboat with a gas motor. As they go down stream, they see dead fish everywhere, and Harry soon realizes that the water had turned to acid, and is slowly eating the bottom of the boat, meaning that they had just jumped from the frying pan into the fire, figuratively speaking.
Another favorite sequence of scenes starts when the volcano blows its top, leaving Harry and company a few minutes to find a safe place to escape the smothering cloud of death coming right at them.
Famous Quote of Harry Dalton: "I move around a lot: Colombia, Guatemala, the Philippines, Mexico, New Zealand, New Guinea... wherever there's a volcano with an attitude."
This film is rated PG-13 for disaster related violence, intense situations and one scene that shows a bloody head, which was caused by a flying rock.