THE WAVE (2015)
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Norwegian disaster film from Cold Prey director Roar Uthaug sets up it story by opening with newsreel footage and documentation of real-life incidents of villages being destroyed by rock slides causing tsunami’s in the fjords. As our story opens, geologist Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) is on his last day at work monitoring the seismic plates of the mountains surrounding his small village of Geiranger, which sits on the shores of a fjord. There are some odd readings that concern him and continue to trouble him even after he leaves his job on the eve of moving his family to a new town and new life. But old habits die hard and Kristian is afraid that there may be a disaster approaching…and soon. While it’s the height of tourist season and no one wants to believe him, his fears prove right as a massive rockslide hits the fjord sending a devastating tsunami towards Geiranger and Kristian’s family.
Uthaug directs a fun and very intense thriller from a script by John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg. It’s a very modestly budgeted film and the SPFX are quite good, but it also is a smaller scaled movie and benefits from that greatly. While we forgo the big spectacle of Hollywood disaster epics, it instead focuses on the very likable Kristian and his efforts to rescue his family from the destruction. It makes it a more intimate portrayal of people surviving a catastrophe and brings the human element to the forefront. It’s a refreshing and more down-to-earth portrayal of this type of situation and is all the more intense and suspenseful as we are endeared to the characters involved. By avoiding the soap opera level melodramatics that these movies embrace, it is a more believable scenario filled with real people and not cliché stereotypes. Uthaug and the writers still fit in all the familiar tropes…no one wants to believe Kristian at first, it is during a tourist season and there is a plot device to keep Kristian’s wife, Idun (Dead Snow’s Ane Dahl Torp) and son, Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) in town during the evacuation. The film is still following the disaster formula, despite it’s less bombastic and simpler approach and this is what made it so satisfying. You can relate more to real people in a more realistic situation than something that is too over-the-top to be anything but a movie. On a production level it looks good for such a modest budget, the landslide and tsunami FX are really convincing and Uthaug brings a solid visual style which gives us some stark imagery. Cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund captures that imagery and the beautiful Norwegian scenery very well and Magnus Beite adds atmosphere and intensity with his score.
The cast really make this work, too by presenting a very likable family to become endeared to and root for. Kristoffer Joner is not the usual larger than life character these movies employ, but a very simple family man and passionate about keeping them safe. He may be moving on to a new town and career at the start, but his heart is in geology and his vigil over the mountains and their seismic activity. When disaster strikes he risks all to save his loved ones and anyone else he can. A brave and noble, yet very down-to-earth character played excellently by Joner. Ane Dahl Torp is equally strong as his wife Idun. She works at a local hotel and must bravely act when that hotel is struck by disaster and is filled with tourists. Idun is a woman who can take care of herself and those around her and also will go to extreme measures to protect her family. Ane Dahl Torp really nails the character and gives off a natural sexuality while doing it. Jonas Hoff Oftebro is good as their teen son Sondre who is feeling the effects of the move the most and Edith Haagenrud-Sande is adorable and very sweet and brave as their young daughter, Julia. A rock solid cast.
This was a very enjoyable and delightfully smaller scaled disaster flick. It had a more character driven perspective with some very likable characters and had a stronger emotional core because of it. Director Roar Uthaug brought some of the intensity he gave Cold Prey into this flick and delivers a thrilling and endearing story of a family trying to survive a catastrophe. It’s got a lot of the disaster flick tropes we expect, but in a more grounded tale of survival and unconditional dedication to one’s loved ones. Very highly recommended.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) fjords.