Released: 1998
Director: Michael Bay

Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck


Mindless comfort viewing – one of my favourite films

We all know about the joys of comfort eating – feeling a little bit poorly or low and digging into a dirty big slice of cake to make it all better.  We’ve all done it and we all secretly enjoy it.

I’m sure the theory works with movies and books too.  Yesterday morning I slightly twisted my back while pulling the handbrake on my car.  I felt sore and a bit rubbish so to make myself feel better I went for a long walk, had a warm bubble bath, then decided to cheer myself up with some comfort viewing.  For me, comfort films fall into two distinct categories – cold afternoon musicals and mindless action adventures.  I picked the latter, Armageddon – one of my all time favourite films.

Directed by Michael Bay and starring Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, Armageddon is an unashamedly patriotic, explosion filled (and sometimes sentimental) story of a group of drillers led by Harry Stamper (Willis) who are recruited by NASA to destroy a giant asteroid which is hurtling towards Earth.  I wish there were deeper plot points or more detail to give you but really, that’s it.  There’s nothing more to Armageddon than pure entertainment.  This is a very good thing.

Bruce Willis puts in his tried and trusted performance as the world-weary everyman and ordinary guy who finds himself in an unimaginable situation.  I love Willis, have done since Die Hard and these are the kind of roles he plays better than anyone else in Hollywood.

Ben Affleck is cocky and self-assured as A.J., the young pretender to Harry’s roughneck crown.  Liv Tyler is beautiful as Harry’s daughter and A.J.’s lover, but her acting is variable – it isn’t helped by a couple of hysterical and over-the-top moments.

The real acting in this film is done by Billy Bob Thornton as NASA head Dan Truman, who conveys all of the emotion needed by the story.  The actors don’t quite manage that in their performances.  The supporting cast are great, particularly Steve Buscemi as Rockhound, who rides a nuclear warhead like a bucking bronco at one point.  Let’s face it, who wouldn’t, given the chance?

The script is a strange beast – it has moments of humour such as a negotiation between NASA and the drillers (who never want to pay taxes again).  It has some sad moments including the end which has made me cry on more than one occasion.  The film also has some clunky elements of over-explanation and a couple of scenes drag on too long.

As you would expect from a Michael Bay film there are spectacular action scenes.  With the knowledge of the 9/11 attacks it’s quite sobering to watch the destruction of New York, including an asteroid hitting the World Trade Center and bodies falling from high rise office blocks.  The film is one long sequence of set-pieces and cliched action – you can tell which scenes were designed specifically for the trailer or publicity shots!

Armageddon isn’t clever, it’s not got anything to say about the destruction of the world, it isn’t a political allegory of any kind, nor is it in any way subtle or nuanced – America is good, the rest of the world is a bit rubbish and is looking America for salvation. I have a friend who once counted the number of times the American flag appeared on screen – it’s something like 500.

Armageddon was the biggest hit of 1998 and it’s easy to see why.  It’s great fun and entertainment of the highest order.  When you’re feeling a bit down or sore that’s what you need a movie to be -it’s my favourite g0-to film for a lazy Saturday night or a duvet day – and I love it.

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