‘The Day After Tomorrow’ remains chilling, literally

Dennis Quaid in “The Day After Tomorrow”

Winter is coming, and as movies go, “The Day After Tomorrow” is a good way to prepare for it.

Being shown by AMC on Sunday, Nov. 15, director and co-writer Roland Emmerich’s (“Independence Day”) disaster saga has been a cable network staple since soon after its 2004 theatrical release, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a high-concept picture that poses a universal dilemma: What if mankind experienced a global freeze-over? As the crux of the cold-weather season approaches, with many people likely to stay inside more than ever, the film is particularly relevant.

It’s part of the basic disaster-movie formula that such a project sets several personal stories against the larger backdrop of the crisis at hand. Here, those characters primarily are a climate expert and his son, played by Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal. Dad eventually gets to say, or at least think, “I told you so” after trying to warn dismissive authorities of the approaching problem — and he eventually sets out to retrieve his offspring, who’s stranded in a suddenly glacial New York with fellow students (including the one he has a mad crush on, portrayed by Emmy Rossum) during a school trip.

Of course, such a mission won’t be without its hiccups, and Emmerich and his team effectively use their special-effects know-how to depict a world turned to ice with stunning visuals. Some are seen as long shots, with a frozen cloak of atmosphere moving across locales such as midtown Manhattan; others supply close-up flashes of horror, as when a crew member of a crashed helicopter opens the door and promptly gets a much colder complexion than he had seconds earlier.

Emmerich loaded the cast of “The Day After Tomorrow” with such other reliables as Sela Ward, Ian Holm, Jay O. Sanders and Nestor Serrano. Also notable are Perry King and Kenneth Welsh as the American president and vice president, the latter part pretty clearly drawn to mirror a certain actual politician of the time.

As might be expected, “The Day After Tomorrow” folds in its share of cautionary messages … but for the most part, those are shown rather than said and left for viewers to distill, which is not hard to do. After all, who wants the whole world to be turned into one hyper-enormous ski slope or skating rink, exactly the result suggested here?

However, “The Day After Tomorrow” also works at the root level as an involving adventure. Enjoy it — and, if applicable, turn up the heat while watching it.

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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