Length: 145 minutes
Release Date: July 3, 1996
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Stars: 3.5 out of 5
“Independence Day” is the film that launched Will Smith’s film career and made him the king of summer blockbusters. Prior to starring in the film, Smith was known for his work on the television series “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” but after the film, he began appearing in more film roles and even received an Oscar nomination.
The film is one of the top blockbusters from recent years. Will Smith stars as Captain Steven Hiller, a military man who has a relationship with a stripper named Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox, “Kill Bill, Vol. 1”) and her young son. When aliens invade the city, he jumps into the action and scampers off to help save the world. As soon as Hiller leaves, the film splits into multiple stories. Jasmine and her son leave their small house behind in the hopes of finding Hiller at an agreed-upon location. Along the way, she winds up helping First Lady Marilyn Whitmore (Mary McDonnell, “Dances with Wolves”).
David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum, “Jurassic Park”) is a computer technician and hacker who just might know how to save the world, but he has to deal with complications in the form of his ex-wife Constance Spano (Margaret Colin, “Gossip Girl”) and his father Julius (Judd Hirsch, “A Beautiful Mind”). Constance has problems of her own as she works for President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman, “While You Were Sleeping”). Another story involves Russell Casse (Randy Quaid, “Kingpin”), a former military pilot who now drinks too much and embarrasses his children. The various stories intertwine throughout the film, as each group tries to survive the alien attack.
“Independence Day” is one of the best sci-fi and alien films in history. Every character and actor brings something different to the film, which keeps the stories from feeling too dull. Jasmine is a single mother who wants to ensure that her son is safe, but she also wants to find her way back to the love of her life. Hiller wants to save the world because he knows that will keep Jasmine safe, and he carries around an engagement ring to remind himself of how he feels.
The President struggles to comfort the people who elected him, but he can’t stop thinking about his wife, who went missing during the attack when her helicopter went down. Russell Casse has one of the most interesting stories in the film. Though he spent years defending the country, he now finds himself unable to even help his children. The struggles that he has with his children are among the best scenes in the film.
“Independence Day” was one of the first films to use CGI work in an effective and realistic way. The scene where the alien spaceship slowly descends over the White House is one that’s unforgettable. The director also used CGI work in one of the earliest scenes of the film, showing a dark shadow that suddenly descends over the ground, marking the alien invasion. Though the scene doesn’t show the actual spaceship, its large shadow lets viewers know that something dark is about to happen.
While there are some truly dark scenes in the film, it also has some light moments courtesy of Goldblum. The actor portrays a man who is a genius when it comes to computers but hopeless when it comes to others. He still can’t understand why his relationship with his ex-wife failed, and he clearly still carries a torch for her but doesn’t know what to do about it. Goldblum shines in every scene that he appears, and he even manages to steal the film away from Smith.
Goldblum shares great chemistry with both Smith and Hirsch. When he and Hirsch are on-screen, viewers find it easy to believe that the two have a familial relationship. They bicker like a real father and son would, but a few of their scenes will tug on the heartstrings of those watching. With Smith, Goldblum shows his comedic side, playing off Smith and releasing a few one-liners to lighten the mood.
While the relationships play an important part in “Independence Day,” this film is all about the action. Whether it is about Smith’s leaping into a plane with a cigar dangling from his mouth or Quaid’s deciding to take action by helping his country and making his kids proud of him, the film oozes with amazing action scenes. The director smartly mixes the action scenes with the emotional parts to create a one-two punch that keeps viewers entertained. Even years after it landed in theaters, “Independence Day” is still a strong and entertaining film that mixes heart, action, and sci-fi.