Disaster in a New York tunnel as explosions collapse both ends of it. One hero tries to help the people inside find their way to safety.
Rob Cohen has got the equation just right for the pumped-up, white-knuckle ride that is Daylight. There's a suitably cheddar-laden script well versed in stiff-jawed, deathbed silliness. There's a well-tuned tableau of "real people" stereotyped to a man: dysfunctional family, old couple, sassy love interest, cussing punks, solid cop, dog, there's an utterly dependable reluctant hero with a shadowy past. And, of course, there's a big problem.
In this case, a really impressive problem as New York's Hudson River traffic tunnel goes kaboom, both ends get blocked, the river starts seeping in, loads of rats, electrical wires, poisonous gas and falling masonry turn up all over the shop, and it looks highly unlikely that anyone's gonna get out of this alive. Except, you know, they will. It's all shocks and no surprises. And instantly you are reminded just how enjoyable celluloid catastrophes can be.
Daylight is great because it never tries to be any more than it is a disaster movie with all the special-effects hoopla the 90s can bring. The fireball opener, a gobsmacking computer conflagration that totally engulfs the screen, alone makes The Towering Inferno look no more than a lofty barbecue.
Right on cue, a series of predictably freak events transpires to leave a handful of ordinary folk (and a dog) in the middle of a highly unstable, very leaky tunnel. Luckily, on site is ex-rescue service top boy Kit Latura (Stallone in appreciably vulnerable Cliffhanger mode).
Unluckily, he's brought his neuroses. And things, naturally, have to get worse before they can get better, and no end of deeply unpleasant events (assumingly all part and parcel of being trapped in a collapsing tunnel) are rolled out with virtuoso displays of technical filmmaking and really cheesy acting. Not forgetting a whole lot of bonding to be squeezed between the brute explosions: Stephan Crighton (Sanders) wins over his wife and kid; George the cop (Stan Shaw) realises he truly loves tunnel supervisor Grace (Vanessa Bell Galloway); the forlorn Eleanor Trilling (Claire Bloom) gets over the death of her son; and the crack-head prison van escapee Mikey (Renoly Santiago) learns the value of life. Oh, and big Kit and gutsy broad Madelyne Thompson (Brenneman) realise they're made for each other.
Rob Cohen has done the trick and reinvented the disaster movie in all its glory. No matter how potty it all gets, you're always hanging in there with them. No matter how obvious the outcome, you're still relieved when they make it out alive. Tunnel authorities are probably knocking up their placards already. It'll kill or cure claustrophobics. As for the dog . . . well, you'll just have to see for yourself.
In typical Rob Cohen fashion, it does exactly what it says on the tin. But that's all it needs to be the visceral rollercoaster ride we all expect.