Starring Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Jonas Hodd Oftebro, Laila Goody
Norway’s submission to the 88th Annual Academy Awards wasn’t nominated for best foreign film. Still it’s an impressive piece of cinema for the country, breaking box office records on opening day. Yet when you widen the scope and compare The Wave to other disaster films, like Oscar nominated South American film The Impossible, it’s not as groundbreaking. Reminiscent of the Pierce Brosnan thriller Dante’s Peak, The Wave is an effective thriller because it works with real logic and promise that the shifting mountains of Geiranger, Norway will produce a similar event to this films portrayal. It’s the rescue mission following the impressive special effects that strands The Wave from greatness.
Kristian (Joner) has spent a lifetime focusing on the ever shifting mountains of his isolated hometown of Geiranger. In 1905, part of the mountain collapsed, creating a tsunami in the fjord (long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by glacial erosion), killing many of the townspeople who had no warning. Having accepted a new job in a different field, Kristian is about to leave his work behind and move his wife and children to the city when the mountain begins to shift. Once the tsunami is formed by the collapse of the mountain, the residents living at 80 meters above sea level have only 10 minutes before the wave hits.
It’s the character development in the hour before the action sets in that does this film justice.
Subtly isn’t The Wave’s strongest point. Our main characters last day at work, his wife working at the hotel situated at the bed of the fjord, or their son Sondre, skateboarding with his earphones on as the wave gets closer. It’s the character development in the hour before the action sets in that does this film justice. While we only scrape the surface of who these people are, Joner and Torp force us to care about their characters survival. Director Roar Uthaug uses twilight, alarming sensors, fanaticism, and fleeing birds to heighten the climax build up, which like The Impossible and many disaster films, happens mid movie.
The giant wave pushes more than just the films protagonists into a corner, the script finds itself pinned as well. When our scientist turns into an action hero is when things get murky like the water of debris and dead bodies. The Wave, a work of fiction, is actually more predictable than The Impossible which was a documented true story. The Wave doesn’t have visual effects from one of the big Hollywood companies, Previz & teaser VFX do great work and never allow the movie magic to steal the show. The Wave is an old fashion film of survival that always maintains a steadfast foot in reality.
An old fashion disaster film that focuses on the characters and not the effects.