Review: The Wave
PLOT: After a series of questionable alerts regarding a rock formation that may collapse, a geologist attempts to convince those around him of the impending doom.
REVIEW: There was a time when disaster films were taken very seriously. That was well before Asylum and other companies turned the - in reality - horrifying situations into over-the-top ridiculousness. This is not an indictment of that style necessarily. If one of those flicks happens to be on, it is fun to sit back and watch. However, in the Norway drama THE WAVE, we see a far more serious look at what happens when a Tsunami hits a small town. You can certainly find elements of nearly every man vs. nature flick here, in fact, it is quite predictable. The warnings nobody listens to. A man trying to save his family. And of course the impact of a real life terror that savages the town. So if it is all so very common, why is it so appealing?
Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) is a geologist who has finally decided to move on from his work in Norway to a more stable job. It is a choice made to spend more time with his family, and to get away from the constant pressure of monitoring the mountain pass of Åkneset in the Geiranger fjord in Norway. However, when they discover a possible weakness in the rocks, he begins to suspect that there will be a devastating event that could potentially destroy everything in its path. While most of his co-workers think it is just jitters, they soon come to the realization that all his fears are about to come crashing down on them. When a massive rock slide hits, it triggers a massive Tsunami. Desperately, Kristian attempts to save his family and get out of the disaster alive.
We’ve all seen this before. A catastrophic event rocks a community, and a group of survivors attempt to escape with their lives. Predictable as this may be, the script by John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg, as well as the strong performances from the majority of the cast raise the bar. You may see where this is going, but the journey getting there is where the film shines. THE WAVE itself occurs somewhere near the halfway mark. Until then we see a convincing family man, the ones he loves and works with. And when tragedy hits, you are invested enough in Kristian, as well as most of the survivors searching for higher ground.
Kristoffer Joner (THE REVENANT, DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD) is terrific as a man caught between protecting his family, and doing the right thing. The relationship he shares with those around him is especially believable. It is a bit frustrating that his co-workers refuse to believe that he may be right about the collapse, even if the idea of him questioning leaving his job feels mostly genuine. It helps support their stubborn behaviors slightly. As well, Joner shares a very honest relationship with his wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp). Sure, their teenage son Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) is a pain in the ass, but hey, it’s a family dynamic that works.
And then there is THE WAVE itself. After the rockslide crashes down into the waters below, the tsunami is a mostly terrifying sight. One scene in particular involving a traffic jam which has people fleeing from their cars to the mountains is especially tense. We’ve seen bigger and better special effects, but the human element makes up for that. The last half hour does delve into way too familiar territory, and while it is exciting, it isn’t quite as thrilling as it could have been. Now I did see this on a small screen, so it very well may be worth watching on the big screen. When it works, it works rather well.
In an age when disaster flicks are beyond ridiculous - sharks with two-heads, piranha and snake hybrids - it is refreshing to see a film like this. The cast is believable, and Kristoffer Joner makes for a great everyman facing impossible odds. At times, it can get tedious as each act stays true to a routine story. Yet, the heartfelt relationships, and the intensity of the devastation is enough to make an impact. This is the kind of motion picture I’d like to see more of, a serious minded thriller with a hero you can relate to. THE WAVE is worth searching for if you’d like a return to the disaster movies of old.