Thursday, August 21, 2014

Movie Review: Into the Storm

Into the Storm
Directed by: Steven Quale.
Written by: John Swetnam.
Starring: Richard Armitage (Gary), Sarah Wayne Callies (Allison), Matt Walsh (Pete), Max Deacon (Donnie), Nathan Kress (Trey), Alycia Debnam Carey (Kaitlyn), Arlen Escarpeta (Daryl), Jeremy Sumpter (Jacob), Lee Whittaker (Lucas), Kyle Davis (Donk), Jon Reep (Reevis), Scott Lawrence (Principal Thomas Walker), David Drumm (Chester), Brandon Ruiter (Todd White).

Into the Storm is yet another found footage movie – although at the very least, it tries to address one of the biggest problems I always have with the genre – namely, why the hell do these people keep filming when their lives are in danger. In Into the Storm, much of the footage is shot by a documentary film crew, who want to put their lives in danger in order to capture the best footage of the most dangerous storms imaginable. The rest is shot by some high school kids, and no, there really is no reason for them to continue filming, and there are some edits in the movie that do not make any sense (who the hell is holding the other camera?), but, hell, at least the filmmakers tried. The filmmakers do succeed in creating a terrifying storm, with expert special effects – truly, the movie makes Twister look quaint by comparison in its conjuring up of tornados. Unfortunately however, none of the characters in the movie are worth caring about. They are bland and generic, and played by bland generic actors. The star is the storm, and when it’s raging, the movie works. Whenever anyone says anything or the movie tries to makes us care about the characters, it grinds to a halt.

The movie takes place in the Midwest, during the height of hurricane season. A high school graduation is taking place that day – and despite a tornado warning, the Principal decides to go ahead with anyway, because what could possibly go wrong? The Vice Principal (Richard Armitage) is a widower with two teenage boys at the school – but has been distant from them since the death of their mother. The older son (Max Deacon) is a junior who is supposed to film the graduation, but passes that job off to the younger brother (Nathan Kress) when the girl of his dreams (Alycia Debnam Carey) needs his help, filming an abandoned factory (because if there’s one place you want to be if a tornado is coming, it’s an abandoned factory). Meanwhile, a documentary film crew, led by a man who has designed a car to withstand any tornado, is frustrated because the season is ending soon, and they have no footage. The blame for this belongs to the female meteorologist, whose fancy equipment has gotten them nothing. When all the other storm chasers head to one small town, she tells them to head to the town where that graduation is going on. Who do you think is right? Oh, and there’s a couple of Jackass wannabes who do stupid things.

The human stories of Into the Storm don’t work at all. The screenplay almost plays like they just filmed the treatment – where all you need is broad strokes. I was far more entertained by trying to figure out where I know the actors from (apparently The Hobbit, Community and The Walking Dead – but I knew that last one already) then anything they did onscreen. Their stories play out precisely how you expect them to, and never deviate from the plan.

The filmmakers clearly think that all they need to do is put some great tornado footage onscreen and nobody will notice how awful the screenplay is. To be fair, for large stretches of the movie, they are not wrong. The tornado footage is pretty impressive. If all you want from Into the Storm is well, the storm, than the movie delivers. If you want anything else, then it doesn’t.

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