Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Movie Review: The Wave

The Wave
Directed by: Roar Uthaug.
Witten by: John Kåre Raake & Harald Rosenløw-Eeg.
Starring: Kristoffer Joner (Kristian), Thomas Bo Larsen (Phillip), Ane Dahl Torp (Idun), Fridtjov Såheim (Arvid Øvrebø), Jonas Hoff Oftebro (Sondre), Laila Goody (Margot Valldal), Lado Hadzic (Bussjåfør), Edith Haagenrud-Sande (Julia), Arthur Berning (Jacob Vikra), Eili Harboe (Vibeke).

There is very little in The Wave that you haven’t already seen before if you’ve seen a Hollywood disaster film – except for the fact that this one is Norwegian, and hence, all the actors speak in that language. Other than that, director Roar Uthaug (his name is Roar? How awesome is that) and screenwriters John Kåre Raake & Harald Rosenløw-Eeg follow the Hollywood playbook pretty much to a tee. Yes, it perhaps pushes just a touch farther into darkness at moments – but nothing too much, and it pulls at the end, giving us the cheesy finale we all expect (and want). As far as disaster films go, it’s pretty good – nothing spectacular, but it gets the job done.

The worst part of The Wave – as it is with nearly every disaster film – is the setup before the disaster strikes. In this case, that takes about 40 minutes – in which we follow geologist Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) and his family over the course of one day. He’s about to leave the job he loves – which involves monitoring a mountain for activity, because if something were to happen, and the mountain were to cave in (which everyone knows will happen at some point), it will cause a tsunami (spoiler alert, the mountain will eventually crumble and cause a tsunami) – to head into the city and work for an oil company. His beautiful wife, Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) and two kids – teenage Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) and a younger daughter have mixed feelings about the movie. Of course, as he’s leaving, he sees some strange activity on the monitors – but it’s probably nothing, right (Spoiler alert, it’s not nothing) – but by the time he can piece things together, it’s too late.

For the convenience of the plot, Kristian and his family have split up. Idun and Sondre are at the hotel where Idun works (they are moving, literally the next day, and she’s still working  - odd), whereas Kristian and their daughter are at the old house. The Wave hits – and Kristian along with everyone else in town has only a few minutes to make it to higher ground before he drowns. Meanwhile Idun and Sondre end up trapped in the hotel’s bomb shelter, with an increasingly unstable hotel guest.

One of the reasons to see a film like The Wave –perhaps the only real one – is to see some impressive special effects, and for the most part, The Wave delivers. Yes, you can tell the swirling, dark blue wave is CGI creation – yet considering it’s done on a lower budget than most Hollywood films, it’s still impressive, and more than effective enough to generate some real suspense during that sequence.

From there, the film follows the standard path of disaster movies set in the 1970s with films like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno that has pretty much gone unchanged ever since. The sequence of events inside that bomb shelter certainly get a little bit darker, and go a little bit farther than in most films of this sort – but not so much that the audience will be traumatized.

Many viewers will likely be reminded of The Impossible from a few years ago, because, the films do share a hell of a lot of plot together – although The Wave condenses the action, so we’re not in a field hospital for days on end. Both films do focus on one family, struggle to survive a tsunami, while untold hundreds of others die. It’s easy to take The Wave for a few reasons – one, it’s more outwardly goofy and entertaining than The Impossible, and two because it doesn’t solely focus on the only white family we see in the film (they’re all white – it’s Norway). The tradeoff is that there are no performances as strong as in The Impossible – but I think I’ll take knowingly goofy over overly grim any day.

The Wave doesn’t do anything new – anything that hasn’t been done before, and likely better. Yet, it does do it a hell of a lot of better than many disaster films – which are often almost unwatchably bad. Grading it on a curve like that, The Wave is precisely what it wants to be – for better or worse.

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