For a selection of the residents of New York and New Jersey, it seemed like just another ordinary day, but they did not know about a cargo of toxic waste - make that explosive toxic waste - that was being transported none too legally through the streets. Would-be playwright Madelyne (Amy Brenneman) has received yet another rejection letter, there are cockroaches in her apartment, and her married ex-boyfriend has phoned up to tell her he wants to give their relationship another go. This makes her snap and she packs up her belongings in her car and heads to the New Jersey to Manhattan tunnel - along with many other potential victims...
That's right, this was one of those nineties efforts that attempted to recreate the heyday of the disaster movies of twenty years before, only in this instance there were few moves to truly updating the format, as from some angles Daylight could be seen as a straight lifting of The Poseidon Adventure from a capsized ship to an underwater tunnel. The way this mishap takes place is that the cargo of toxic waste is hit by a stolen car full of criminals, which sets off a huge explosion, collapsing the structure at both ends and killing most of the people who were inside. Most, but not all, as we have to have survivors to save.
Oddly enough, not among those survivors is a character played by Sylvester Stallone. He was our leading man in what had traditionally been a genre which took a collection of stars to put them through hell, upside down or otherwise, but the way they presented him here was to tackle his obvious from the start hero status by making him a man of great modesty. Even though it's plain for all to see that he will rescue all and sundry from their ordeal, or as many of them as possible at any rate, we have to sit through scenes of Sly offering helpful advice and deferring to officials who don't wish to do it his way, despite that way being the most sensible path available.
Thus if anything, the film could be accused of false modesty in the manner in which Stallone is portrayed, or alternatively it could be seen as a tease, as by the halfway point it's as if the filmmakers say, oh, we were only kidding about Sly's character being a lowly taxi driver who isn't the man among men we suspected, because guess what? He really is that pillar of the community! We're introduced to him as he drives his taxi, but he was not always in that profession as over the course of the drama we find out that Kit Latura used to be something big in the emergency services until some tragedy occurred which lost him his job. You know what that means, don't you? Just like Gene Hackman before him, he is going to have to redeem himself.
Except that as Kit is played by Stallone, we're already quite prepared to accept him as the he-man hero, so that part of the plot really heads nowhere. Kit decides to be a one man rescue mission and heads down into the tunnel alone where a group of shivering individuals from all strata of life are wondering how they're going to escape, what with the river threatening to break through the walls and no apparent way out. Viggo Mortensen appears as a more traditional extreme sports champion who's down there too, so it is no surprise to see him bite the dust within minutes of proclaiming himself their best chance. In fact, for a while it looks as if everyone who contradicts Kit is doomed, but then screenwriter Leslie Bohem opts to bump off a few characters for tearjerking purposes instead. It's all very mechanical, not unenjoyable, but at this stage they appeared to be content to sit back and allow the clichés of the dilemma dictate the action, leaving you with an empty diversion. Music by Randy Edelman.