Monday, April 25, 2022

#2,744. The Wave (2015) - 21st Century Disaster Movies Triple Feature


Rolf Uthaug’s The Wave opens with a slideshow of images depicting the aftermaths of real-life tsunamis, which had destroyed several small Norwegian towns (the tsunamis were caused by rockslides). It happened first in 1905, killing 60 people, and again 29 years later in the village of Tafjord, during which 40 lost their lives.

The first disaster film ever produced in Norway, The Wave manages to pull us in during these early moments by reminding us the chaos we are about to witness can - and actually did - happen, giving this 2015 film a step-up on Roland Emmerich and company, whose The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 boasted million-dollar special effects and about $1.75 worth of believability.

Having recently accepted a new job with an oil company, geologist Kristian Elkjord (Kristoffer Joner) spends his last days in the small coastal town of Geiranger saying goodbye to co-workers and packing up his family’s belongings. When it’s time to leave, Kristian, along with his teenage son Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) and young daughter Julia (Edith Haagenrud-Sande), heads to the docks to hop the ferry, while his wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp), who works the desk at Geiranger’s swankiest hotel, will finish out her last few days on the job before joining them.

But a recent development concerning a nearby mountain, which could very well signal the beginning of a major rockslide, weighs heavy with Kristian, and causes him to make quick detour to beg his old boss Arvid (Fridtjov Såheim) to put emergency protocols into place. Unfortunately, it’s too little too late; an enormous rockslide crashes into the surrounding fjord, sending a wall of water some 260 feet (80 meters) high barreling towards Geiranger, giving Kristian, Idun, and the kids – as well as everyone in town – exactly 10 minutes to reach higher ground.

The special effects generated by Uthaug and his team for The Wave, most notably the tsunami that threatens to wipe the town of Geiranger off the map, are damned effective (we get to see this tsunami, in all its destructive glory, several times before it makes landfall). Yet the reason we’re so terrified of this giant wave is only in part due to computer-generated wizardry; by the time the disaster hits, Uthaug has ensured we’re fully invested in his main characters. Thanks to the performances delivered by Joner, Dahl Torp, and the kids (especially young Edith Haagenrud-Sande), the Elkjord family is as likable as they come, and we hope and pray that, when the water finally recedes, all will still be alive.

Hollywood, and especially Mr. Emmerich, could learn a little something from The Wave: It’s possible to make a special effects-laden disaster film without sacrificing story and character development in the process.
Rating: 8 out of 10

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