|Written by Jerry Del Colliano|
|Tuesday, 12 January 1999|
Pierce Brosnan plays Harry Dalton, a geologist who is still guilt-ridden and bereaved four years after a volcanic tragedy (dramatized vividly in Chapter 2). When work brings Harry to the little community of Dante’s Peak in the American Pacific Northwest, he quickly has cause for concern. The mayor, single mom Rachel Wando (Linda Hamilton), is prepared to head Harry’s warnings, but the city council refuses to evacuate.
Writer Leslie Bohem bucks the disaster movie format a bit by focusing on Harry and Rachel, rather than a larger group. This gives ‘Dante’s Peak’ a more fluid feel and allows for some build in the earlier sequences, even though effects buffs may want to skip up from Chapter 2 up to Chapter 16, when the big preliminary jolts start, paving the way for Chapter 22, which contains the first of a number of major eruptions.
Once the mountain blows, Harry and Rachel must dodge one peril after another, racing toward rather than away from danger to find and rescue her missing children. (As motivation goes, this has a lot more immediacy than, say, the tornado velocity measuring of ‘Twister.’) Bohem does at times lapse into genre cliches, particularly regarding elderly women, but on the whole, his construction is sound.
Director Roger Donaldson adroitly keeps things moving in the early set-up sections and ably succeeds in continually scaring the lava out of us once the peak erupts. We feel as though we’re smack in the middle of the havoc, and effect augmented by excellent cinematography and editing. Patrick McClung supervised the realistic-looking special effects--intellectually, we know we’re viewing the handiwork of skilled technicians rather than Mother Nature, but viscerally we react to the spectacle with the same awe and fear that the characters feel.