Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The Wave

You're expected to do a bit of outcome-based analysis with disaster movies: There's a strong "if they'd only listed to that guy, so many lives wouldn't have been lost!" undercurrent to so many of them. But this one sometimes seems to go way off in the other direction.


I mean, that bus full of people who had evacuated all dying while Idun and Sondre survive - kind of rough, right? Part of it's liking Vibeke and how that moment of her and Sondre checking each other out in the hallway seemed more genuine than a lot of films that do more, but there really is the expectation that there's some sort of karmic balance to these things, that panic will get you killed but doing the right thing, even if it doesn't save you, will let you die bravely.

The other thing about that bus: It means that the Ejikods are kind of terrible at saving anyone other than their own family, doesn't it? Kristian rescuing Anna when she was pinned between the cars was negated minutes later when he escaped from the SUV uninjured while she was killed, while everybody in the hotel Idun was evacuating, aside from the son who was skateboarding around the basement with his headphones on - right down to deliberately drowning the last one (she had reasons, but still)! The funny thing about that is, The Wave had really seemed to go out of its way to not make this a movie where a ton of people dying was okay so long as the family wound up together and past their differences, but instead, the simple fact of being family with the protagonist is all that can save you.


I suppose that this sort of cancels out, and the end result is that these disasters are random and unsentimental. Which, on a certain level, is good - movies that reduce them to acts of god that kill thousands to teach one family a lesson, at least as far as the viewer's emotional reaction to the movie is concerned are kind of awful and encourage a really nasty sort of egocentric way of looking at the world. And yet, there's no denying that something is missing from these stories without it. It's a quandary.

Bølgen (The Wave)

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 7 Match 2016 in Landmark Kendall Square #3 (first-run, DCP)

It's odd but fortunate that The Wave is getting an American theatrical release; it's the sort of international genre film that tends to go straight to video-on-demand and maybe doesn't even get a Region A Blu-ray. It's understandable, since massive destruction is the thing Hollywood does better than anyone else and there's thus little need to import more, despite the focus and specificity that something produced elsewhere can offer while still looking great on the big screen.

In this case, the place is the town of Geiranger, a scenic spot on a fjord sitting beneath the mountain Åkneset. Geologist Kristian Ejikod (Kristoffer Joner) has been part of the team monitoring the mountain for years, though he's about to take a job for an oil company in the city. On his last day, they get some odd seismic reasons which bear further investigation, because a big enough rockslide would trigger a wave that, when traveling through the narrow straits in the area, could reach a height of 80 meters when it arrives at the town ten minutes later. For reference, the hotel where Kristian's wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) is putting in one of her last shifts, is 1.7 meters above sea level.

There's a certain template to the disaster movie built out of how disasters often happen relatively quickly but audiences generally expect to spend more than an hour and a half in the theater once they've paid the going rate for a screen with all the relevant bells and whistles: A getting-to-know-you period establishing some sort of personal stakes, a visual-effects centerpiece, and then, unless you can afford/sell repeated aftershocks or recurrent catastrophe, the rescue of people who got trapped in a place that was momentarily safe but will now kill them slowly. You can practically set your watch to it, and either director Roar Uthaug or one of the writers was cheeky enough to actually have Kristian do so, starting a ten minute countdown as soon as he finds out that the mountain has collapsed (it's a sporty model that also indicates elevation, so we know exactly how much higher everyone has to climb while it counts down). Its not hard to guess what happens on either side of those ten minutes, either.

Full review on EFC.

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