It was during the time that Hollywood was making all of the disaster films that set the bar for today that Dante’s Peak came into being. From the beginning of the film you would not think that there was going to be a lot of action or destruction going to happen in the film but like a volcano, the pace and story had to build for it to be truly amazing. Relationships developed and explained, heart ache and losses relived and hints at what was about to destroy everything. The way the film builds on itself to give you one hell of a show is amazing and here is the kicker, it was done with models. They didn’t use a bunch of fancy shmancy computer effects, they used tried and true models. The way that the models were shot and then cut in give the film more realism and many of its ground breaking shots actually show up in other films because they are just that damned good. Because it was actually real life explosions and props it made the film more realistic and in some ways even more horrific in what happens to the town, the mountain and its people.
We start the film with a flash back from four years earlier when Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan) and his research assistant and fiance Marianne (Walker Brandt) are in Columbia monitoring the eruption of a volcano. Things get too dangerous, past too dangerous and we see just what happens when you wait too long to get the hell out. As Harry is crying we fad to the present and he is getting a call from his boss at the USGS. Paul Dreyfus (Charles Hallahan) wants him to come in and check out some tremors happening in the Norther Cascades instead of going on vacation. Harry is the best person that he has and wants to have his best on sight to see what is going on. The day that he gets to the town of Dante’s Peak they are having a Pioneer Days festival and the town is receiving an award from Money Magazine for being the 2nd best place to live, population under 20,000. At the same time there is a couple of hikers that are taking a skinny dip in the local Twonset Hot Springs. While they planned to have a hot time they instead have a hot boiling time in the spring as the mountain starts its first stirrings of waking up.
Harry meets up with Mayor Rachel Wando (Linda Hamilton) to be shown around so he can collect his data and winds up spending most of the day with her 2 children Lauren (Jamie Renee Smith) and Graham (Jeremy Foley) who seems to always be in trouble. He also meets their grandmother Ruth (Elizabeth Hoffman) who lives up on the mountain below Mirror Lake. She is one of those old people that are set in their ways and they think that the mountain is nothing but a hunk of rock that is never going to move. She believes that the mountain is not going to hurt them even when later in the film there is volcanic ash falling all around them. As Harry is being shown around he notices that trees are dieing off as well as there being enough carbon dioxide coming out of the soil to start killing the wildlife, especially squirrel. He feels that the whole team needs to get up on the mountain and check it out, he also feels that the town should be alerted for the possibility of an eruption. While his intentions are in the right place his boss stops him as Paul doesn’t want to kill the local economy on what ifs.
During the couple of weeks that they are are in town they see a lot of tremors and a few shallow quakes but everyone but Harry feels that the mountain is safe and not in danger of doing any damage. As they are packing up and getting ready for the trip back to the USGS in Portland in the morning Harry is on a date with Rachel and makes a shocking discovery. Sulfur dioxide is contaminating the towns water supply. He knows that can mean only one thing, the mountain is going to blow and he rushes to show Paul the water and to warn the public that they are going to have to evacuate. Paul is shocked and sorry that he doubted Harry and the money that was going to come into town is about to pack up and run. That is when the real film starts to play. It is right then that the whole town starts to shake and dance as quake after magmatic quake starts to topple buildings and electrical poles. It is now a mad dash to get out of town and people are panicking as they flee as buildings fall and bridges collapse.
Earlier the Wando family tried to get Ruth to come down off the mountain but she wont budge. While their mother is at the town meeting they decide to drive the truck up and get their grandmother. You have to realize that the kids are about 10 and 12 and driving out of instinct and a desire to save their grandma, they even left a note for their mother to let her know where they went. This starts a panicked flight of Harry and Rachel up the mountainside to rescue the kids and the cantankerous grandmother. Along the way roads are washed out, blocked by rock slides, gas stations explode and cars go floating down the river and the real eruption hasn’t even happened yet. Most of the damage is happening with people just being stupid as they race by in a panicked flight.
This film is full of heart as we look at just how frail and greedy some people can be as well as humans capacity to love and overcome adversity. We see how a man that was lost can find love again with a woman that was walked out on for no reason at all. We see kids that even though they get into trouble are willing to sacrifice everything just to save the ones that they care and love. This film will make you laugh and it will make you cry and then cheer as you see them succeed. This film is an emotional roller coaster that you are going to want to ride again and again.
I give this film a Musing review of