Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Independence Day

directed by Roland Emmerich

Independence Day poster
What do you do when aliens arrive on Earth? Some people in Independence Day greet their coming with cautious optimism, and some others even see it as something to celebrate with open arms. Around the world massive, silent spaceships move into place over the cities of the world. Communications are disrupted as they arrive, and the people of the world struggle to piece together what it all means.

Chess-playing David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is one of the more sceptical people, watching the way the aliens position themselves strategically over the cities of the world. He's one of the few people able to find and decode a hidden signal amongst the communications noise. The clock is ticking, and he has to convince people to get to safety before it's too late.

Meanwhile fighter pilot Captain Steve Hiller (Will Smith) is recalled from his leave to deal with the crisis. In spite of the misgivings of his girlfriend, he's ready to go to the front line in case the alien invaders are hostile.

Independence Day is a special effects extravaganza, and the scenes of invasion and destruction remain impressive even today. There are scenes of mass panic in the cities around the world, and especially in the USA. This is largely a movie about the fighting spirit of the Americans. It's up to a few plucky fighter pilots, such as Steve Hiller, to save the world.

Bill Pullman plays President Whitmore as a level-headed yet virtually helpless leader, calm in the face of overwhelming odds. Like more or less everything in this film, the focus is on making the USA look good, and his portrayal of the President is no exception. The story follows various people as they try to come to terms with apocalyptic events. Jasmine Dubrow (Vivica A. Fox) is a stripper who makes it her business to rescue survivors. There are several side-plots about individual heroism, personal tragedies and loves. But the main emphasis is on the big set-pieces and stirring speeches.

This is a supremely optimistic movie, a celebration of faith in the human spirit. There's an almost complete lack of cynicism about people's basic good nature and capacity for self-sacrifice that makes it both uplifting and considerably cheesy. Fortunately this overdose off all-American brain-dead corniness is offset with just enough tangy dialogue to make it bearable. Nods to other famous movies are peppered throughout, giving film buffs something to look out for. Essentially however Independence Day is a big-budget crowd-pleaser, saucy and overconfident and above all a lot of fun.

Film Details

Decade: 1990s

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Roland Emmerich