Directed by Roland Emmerich
Starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Oliver Platt, Danny Glover, Tom McCarthy, Woody Harrelson
**** Four stars out of five
Autumn is the time in the movie calendar for thoughtful, serious fare. The bang and clatter of the summer thrill rides has abated, and the cavalcade of holiday family films has yet to hit stride. It's a blessed if short window for quieter, more introspective films that demand more of the moviegoer. Roland Emmerich's 2012 is a fine example.
As the film begins, we meet Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), a failed novelist who drives a limo for a Russian gangster. We soon learn that Jackson is divorced from his wife (Amanda Peet) and has lost custody of his two children. He is the classic example of a man who is more dedicated to his ambition than to those he loves. To make matters worse, he has sold only 500 copies of the novel he sacrificed his family for. Jackson's wife has remarried to Gordon, a successful plastic surgeon (Tom McCarthy) whom his children love.
The story of 2012 is built around a camping trip to Yellowstone National Park. Jackson takes his children away for the weekend to try to rebuild their tattered relationship. It is revealed just how large a task this will be in the heartbreaking moment when his young son texts Gordon that "camping sucks". Jackson starts to gain insight into winning back his children from a wizened old hippie (Woody Harrelson) who lives at Yellowstone. In order not to spoil the film, I'll just say that Harrelson provides some sage advice that proves invaluable to the family.
An interesting subplot involves government geologist Adrian Helmsley (Ejiofor), who has discovered an implausible (but ultimately true) new theory. He is fighting for the approval of his superiors in much the same way Jackson is fighting for the love of his children. Emmerich brilliantly brings these two men together in a chance encounter where Adrian discloses that he is a fan of Jackson's ill-fated novel. Clearly the struggle for acceptance is universal, and Adrian's appreciation for Jackson's novel demonstrates that we can all achieve it.
2012 is a wonderful film that will surely spark thoughtful discussion about how we can overcome obstacles by leaning on those around us, strangers and friends alike. One exits the theater reassured that even when things appear bleak, it's not the end of the world.
Tech credits are solid all around.