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‘The Wave’ Is A Successful Hollywood Disaster For Norway (Movie Review)

the wave posterIt can be tricky watching a film about a small town versus a tsunami, as it means wanting to get enough involvement with certain characters, but not feeling too manipulated. It is this kind of fine line that makes certain disaster movies work and other stumble, no matter how good the effects are. Norway’s answer to Hollywood disaster films, The Wave, makes things incredibly simple, as the focus is confidently narrow and the premise is quite understandable.

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Geologist Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) is our lead character. He is about to move away from Geiranger, a small Norwegian village, with his family, but forces himself to make some last minute checks. It is fortunate that he does, as his life is put to the ultimate test upon realizing a rock-slide is imminent and the town needs to be warned. Suffice it to say, things get real and Kristian will have to do everything he can to keep himself, his family and anyone else he can out of harm’s way.

The film’s concept is based around a real situation, as Geiranger is a real town that faces possible destruction due to rock-slides that can cause tsunamis (hundreds have been killed by this in the past). While the exact specifics may have been dramatized to fit a cinematic narrative, it is nice to take a step back from planet-sized threats. However, despite stakes based more around one piece of land, the writers and director Roar Uthaug does not shy away from reveling in every cliché you’d expect from a film about a giant tsunami.

At 105 minutes, a good chunk of the film is rightly focused on establishing who these characters are and what locations matter most. It does mean some of the actors are written to fit right into the mold of certain types (blowhard boss, rebel son, panicky old people, etc.), but the effort is made to tell a real story. Kristian is a good character, as he is right in his actions, but flawed in his approach. It plays well with the rest of the actors portraying his family and provides real weight once disaster strikes.

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Things do take a dive (in a good way), once the wave is in play, as the combination of visual effects and hair-raising tension kept me thrilled by how things would play out. Made at a fraction of the budget other big studio disaster films work with, The Wave gets a lot of mileage out of its depiction of a tsunami, what the impact looks like and what is left behind after.

The pacing quickens once certain characters find themselves devoted to either finding safety or finding loved ones in the aftermath and the film successfully maintains that sense of danger even after the wave hits. Again, there are plenty of familiar elements at play, but disaster movies only need to accomplish so much to tell the right story. It is a matter of how affecting the characters and a lot of those familiar moments are, which will help you decide if the film works.

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For me, the film works quite well. Looking past a couple eye-roll moments involving how believable it would be for Kristian to go to certain lengths to warn people matched against the apprehension he receives for his troubles, I found myself very involved with how things would play out. That should say a lot, given how egregious some may consider some of the more trite elements found in the film’s climax. Let’s just say Hollywood has had a big influence, not matter how much dark European spirit some may find in other parts of this film.

This is possibly the finest film you’ll ever see about a rock tumbling into a fjord. Made with admiration for Irwin Allen disaster flicks, but fine with keeping the focus fairly narrow, The Wave is a solid Norwegian effort at creating a cinematic catastrophe drama. The stock characters and big effects do well to hit the marks you’d expect, without the need for too much excess. That’s plenty for a cinematic diversion with international flare.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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