Hollywood disaster movies have clearly influenced foreign filmmakers. Norway’s The Wave is concrete proof of that. You’ve got a hunky scientist whose warnings of imminent danger fall on deaf ears (think Pierce Brosnan in Dante’s Peak). Mix in a father desperately searching for a loved one after disaster strikes (Dennis Quaid in The Day After Tomorrow). You’ve also got a giant wave a la Poseidon (sans cruise ship).
While there’s nothing particularly original about The Wave, that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining. The comfort food analogy is a tired one, but it remains as true as ever. You know exactly what to expect, and there are no surprises, but you keep returning to it because it’s consistently satisfying.
Kristian (Kristoffer Jonner) is a geologist in Geiranger, a small tourist town. He has just taken a job in the big city and, along with his family, will be moving in a day. Initially his co-workers are sad to see him go, but after his last day Kristian begins to suspect that something terrible is going to happen. His suspicion turns to certainty after looking up data from old disasters. A rockslide in the surrounding mountains will cause a tsunami some 250 feet high, destroying all of Geiranger in 10 minutes (something the town has long prepared for).
Unfortunately for Kristian, when disaster strikes, he is separated from his wife and son (he does have his daughter). Determined to find them no matter what, he strikes out on a desperate search for them after the wave passes through.
Director Roar Uthaug (Cold Prey) is clearly well-versed in the disaster genre. He even throws in the obligatory scene where someone appears extremely dead but a loved one won’t give up and spends what seems like hours performing CPR until the apparent victim coughs up gallons of water. Uthaug did his homework. He’s also good at getting the most bang for his buck. While The Wave cost a fraction of what a Hollywood disaster pic goes for, it doesn’t look cheap. The wave itself, though shown only briefly, is convincing and appropriately imposing.
The scenery is also a huge asset. Uthaug knows what he’s got and hardly five minutes go by without a shot of the mountains. It helps add tension since we know what is coming. We don’t want this beautiful town leveled by a wave. Alas beauty alone isn’t enough to fend off a natural disaster.
Ultimately the impressive wave and a few stellar sequences help this one rise to the level of solid comfort food. One bit showing characters improvising after realizing they can’t get to high ground and out of the wave’s path is particularly harrowing, and Uthaug doesn’t shy away from showing how differently people act in crisis. Not everyone’s a hero. Kristian sure is though. There’s nothing he can’t do.
WICKED RATING: [usr 6]
Director(s): Roar Uthaug
Writer(s): John Kare Raake, Harald Rosenlow Eeg
Stars: Kristoffer Jonner, Ane Dahl Torp, Jonas Hoff Oftebro, Edith Haagenrud-Sande, Fridtjov Saheim, Laila Goody
Release: March 4 (VOD)
Studio/Production Co: Magnolia Pictures/Nordisk Film/Fantefilm
Budget: $6.5 million (estimate)
Language: Norwegian with English subtitles
Length: 105 minutes
Sub-Genre: Natural Disaster