July 26, 2016

The Wave

Roar Uthaug, 2015
The Wave does something that a lot of American disaster movies rarely do. It develops the characters to the point where you have a genuine investment in them. In this sense, the Wave doesn’t pile on the budget on CGI effects of landmarks getting destroyed by Mother Nature. The Day After Tomorrow, Armageddon, Volcano. They all leave you remembering some of the visual elements involved but don’t leave you remembering any of the characters really. The Wave is more generous. Because of its restraint, and it’s carefully executed construction, it gives you more walking away from it. It gives you some really memorable visual elements but also provides some characters that you will remember as well. And with the synergy of both, the actual disaster has more of an emotional impact and less of a simple feast for the eyes popcorn fodder. 

We discover quite quickly that main character Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) is in a transition in his life. About to leave a geology position that he is very personally invested in to take on a high paying gig with the oil industry. You realize that he is doing this as a sacrifice for his family, to try and give them an upgrade. Likely a giant sacrifice for him that he still struggles with. He finds himself not able to easily walk away from his position, and he couldn’t started the move at worse timing (or best depending on how you would like to frame it). In a perfect situation, Kristian leaves during a really boring period where there is no activity on the computer monitors. But up until the very last minute of him about to get on the ferry boat out of town, there is activity in the mountain. And he physically cannot turn his back on it. This makes sense, someone so passionate about their job, not being able to turn their back on something they spent so many years obsessing over. Even with the conflict that it puts him in with his own family, as shown when he leaves his kids in the car to embark on a helicopter survey of the mountain. He is a man who thinks of work first, and family second. Like a lot of fathers and husbands of course, but not many have the same type of position as Kristian. But it’s a juggling act for Kristian. He undeniably loves his family very much. It’s an internal conflict for him, never really able to balance it effectively.

The big event doesn’t occur until close to the halfway point of the film. The ten minute clock ticking is a terrifyingly short window to find a safe place. When things unfold at this point, it’s completely tense and gripping. There are lots of interesting things going on at this point too. The things they are doing with water and light are so remarkable here. Some imagery that I can still easily bring up in my mind, and probably will for some time to come.

A unique and thorough production, The Wave is one of the best disaster films to be released in the past 10 years or so without question.

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