Monday, February 29, 2016

The Wave: Norway Gets Disastrous

If you have read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you know this is all Slartbartfast’s fault. He to delight in designing Norway’s fjords. Unfortunately, they are ticking time-bombs. Eventually, a seismic shift will lead to a rock slide and that will inevitably cause a tidal wave. That day is now in Roar Uthaug’s The Wave (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

This is supposed to be the aptly-named geologist Kristian Eikfjord’s last day working for the Geiranger warning station, so you know the coast is toast. Just when he has the kids all packed up in the car, his Spidey sense starts tingling. His wife Idun was supposed to join them later after working through the tourist season at town’s luxury hotel, but when her husband gets sidetracked by a potential tsunami-style catastrophe (evidently, it happened before in 1934), she fixes up their teen-aged son Sondre (yes, he’s a guy) with a room instead. However, the geologist and their young daughter Julia opt to camp out in their former home for old times’ sake. As a result, the family will be separated when the mega-wave hits.

Of course, by the time the dreaded wave starts, it is already too late. Eikfjord the alarmist was ready to evacuate twelve hours ago, so it is a little hard to figure why he stuck around. Regardless, the good residents of Geiranger will only have ten minutes to reach high ground when the station finally sounds the alarm. No, that is really not enough time, especially when the moody Sondre is skateboarding in the basement with headphones cranked up to eleven.

When the actual wave comes in, Uthaug’s devastation is as good as anything Hollywood has produced. Not surprisingly, the aftermath will be just as perilous, with screenwriters John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg borrowing pages from Titanic and The Poseidon Adventure. Water has an inconvenient tendency to rise, doesn’t it? It general, The Wave is a slightly better than average disaster movie, but it seems like it will do something awesomely dark and unexpected at the end, only to cop out at the last moment, leaving the audience feeling manipulated.

Still, the fjord-bounded setting is spectacularly cinematic and the well-known Norwegian cast is uniformly competent and polished. As Kristian, Kristoffer Joner is a blandly likable absent-minded everyman. Both kids are similarly serviceable, but it is Ane Dahl Torp (so terrific in 1001 Grams) who best stands out as their down-to-earth and tenacious mother.

There aren’t any villains in The Wave, except maybe Mother Nature. Even Eikfjord’s most cautious colleague always seems reasonable (and eventually quite heroic). Isn’t that rather refreshingly Scandinavian? While The Wave never transcends the disaster genre, it observes the conventions in a highly watchable fashion. Recommended for slightly more intimate natural catastrophe films, like The Perfect Storm and Hereafter, The Wave opens this Friday (3/4) in New York, at the Landmark Sunshine.