The Wave (2015)

So, on the day after our area was supposed to get walloped by the remnants of a Pacific cyclone, but didn’t…it seemed fitting to cozy up in a comfy sweatpants / hoodie get-up and take in a good ole Disaster movie. It just so happened that one I’d heard about, and was intrigued by when I first got wind of it’s initial release, had made it’s way onto Netflix without my noticing. It’s been a while since I’ve parked my ass for a new foreign film, as my lovely gal pal isn’t the biggest fan of subtitles, but it just worked out that on this steely grey ‘blah’ of a Sunday, she had some work to do on a different computer screen, in a different room, thus giving me the chance to check out ‘The Wave’, Norway’s highest grossing ‘domestic’ film of 2015.
The premise is mercifully simple…and based on facts that suggest that there’s a VERY real possibility that the scenario depicted in the film can and most likely will, one day happen. As Chuck Heston says at the beginning of that insulting Michael Bay shit-show ‘Armageddon’ – “It’s happened before…it WILL happen again…it’s just a question of When.” Anyway, the basic premise goes like this:
In a small valley town on the edge of a deep and long fjord, geologist ‘Kristian’ (Kristoffer Joner) and his family prepare to leave town as he accepts a job with a large oil company in the city. In true Disaster Movie fashion, alarming signals begin to announce themselves just before they go, eventually leading up a gargantuan rock slide that triggers a catastrophic tsunami that sweeps down the waterway and threatens the entire region.
Right off the bat, I liked this movie. I didn’t know what to expect when I hit Play, but what I got was a slickly executed and surprisingly suspenseful Disaster Film that could easily rub shoulders with any number of Big Budget flicks of the same ilk out of Hollywood. Once I adjusted to the subtitles, I was riveted for the entire 1 hour and 45 minute run-time.
So, like the ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ review of the other week, I jotted notes down as this one played, notes that I’m going to give you right here, word for word. Let’s get into it:

‘Good archive footage intro’ – The initial situation involving the dangers of the constantly shifting landscape of Norway is nicely and concisely laid out using archive footage that looked pretty convincing. I’m inclined to think it’s genuine and I liked the way it was used.

‘Good set-up. Simple premise’ – Again, the basic premise is laid out for us within minutes of the film and it’s refreshingly right-to-the-point.

‘Very ‘Hollywood’ score. Harry Gregson-Wagner?’ Or maybe Hans Zimmer? There was definitely THAT sound to the score and given the slick visuals and cinematography, it fit like a glove.

‘In US version, Lead = Norman Reedus. Maybe John Hawkes?’ – This is just my own observation, but the main actor, Kristoffer Joner, definitely had looks and mannerisms that reminded me of both of these accomplished American actors, who would both be great in a theoretical American remake.

‘Wife Character = Charlize Theron (US Version)’ – Ana Del Torp , the Norwegian actress playing ‘Idun’, ‘Kristian’s wife, definitely had a Charlize thing going on. That is all.

‘Good Family Dynamic’ – the establishment of ‘Kristian’s home-life was sweet and to-the-point, with a believable rapport existing between them.

”Days to Retirement’ cliche’. Moving to city’ – So this one definitely embraced THIS trope, that we’ve seen in countless Action / Suspense Movies, where our Protagonist is just moments away from getting out of the harrowing situation that’s brewing around them, only to no avail.

‘Set-up reminds of ‘Dante’s Peak’…and any Roland Emmerich flick’ – Looking past the common mountainous locale, the ‘contemporary’ Disaster Movie that this one reminded me of almost instantly was 1997’s ‘Dante’s Peak’, in the set-up, the geology angle and the way the scenario plays out. And yes, given the ‘big’ scale of the destruction and the suspenseful lead-up to it, Emmerich flicks like ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ (2004) and ‘2012’ (2009) also leaped to mind.

‘Nice Cinematography’ – This one is pretty self-explanatory, but the director and his Director of Photography did a damn fine job with the large-scale visuals and compositions.

‘Feels high budget, polished’ – On a budget of 50 000 000 Norwegian kroners (about $6 million USD), all the budget, which is pretty damn small, when compared to the ridiculously priced ‘Hollywood’ films that clearly inspired it, is there onscreen. This movie looks damn good! If it wasn’t for the location, actors and language, you’d swear this was the latest Big Budget Disaster Spectacular. It’s an impressive execution.

”Partner dies’ cliche’? Nope’ – There was a sequence where our hero and his work buddy have to enter a dangerous crack in the mountainside where a number of sensors, that have been sending back worrisome signals, are located and in need of inspection. I swore it was going to be the scene where all hell breaks loose and the partner is tragically lost. Yea…it didn’t happen like that, much to my surprise.

‘Solid location shooting. Good showcase for the terrain of Norway’ – The wide angle cinematography does a good job showing off and paying tribute to the unique landscape of Norway. Looked very cool and made me want to see it for myself one day…not that I see that EVER actually happening : (.

‘He just left his kids?!’ – So there’s a scene where ‘Kristian’, while sitting in the ferry line-up to get him and his kids out of town, has an epiphany about what’s been going on and races back to the monitoring centre that he used to work at to warn them. He pulls up, tells his kids he’ll be just as few minutes and…CUT…we then see him in a helicopter racing up the fjord to the site, where he and Fellow Worker Dude venture into a large crack in the mountain. It felt like they had just glossed over the kids waiting outside in the parking lot, but thankfully they do address it when he returns and realizes that he wasn’t exactly Father of the Year for that one.

‘Steady, well-paced first Act. Gives time with characters’ – It’s not until almost 40 minutes in that the real action hits, but leading up to that is plenty of time spent with ‘Kristian’ and his family and co-workers. It got me invested in what happens to them without feeling slow or like padding. It also helped that, being that the entire cast are Norwegian unknowns, to me, they just became the characters.

‘Suspense well handled’ – There are a number of slow-burn suspense scenes scattered though out the story and I think that they all worked solidly in the flicks favour.

‘Haha! Norwegian rap!’ – There’s a scene in which ‘Kristian’s moody teenage son ‘Sondre’ (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) decides to go skateboarding around in the bowels of the hotel his mom works at, and before he does, he slaps on his headphones. Voila, hilarious-sounding Norwegian rap. I found it NEARLY as funny as I find French rap, which to me is some of the funniest-sounding shit out there! Just saying.

‘Landslide looks awesome!’ – That line about sums it up. Being that it’s the Big Event in the film, you’d hope it would look good, but sometimes smaller budgets can betray themselves when attempting Large Scale destruction like this. Not here. They played their cards right and gave us a few choice shots of the avalanche of rock and foliage instead of over-saturating us with sub-par effects.

‘Intimidating tidal wave!’ – This goes hand-in-hand with the previous note. Like the rock-slide, the tsunami isn’t given tons of screen-time, but the shots that we do get are huge and frightening. Some impressive work went into these sequences and it shows, in my opinion.

‘Impressive large-scale post destruction shots’ – Again, the note about sums it up. Some really solid imagery emerges in the wake of the waves Biblical-in-scale passage.

‘They don’t shy away from death. Bus scene’ – For all intensive purposes, this would be a PG-13 rated film, if released in North America. That being said, there are a couple shots and scenes depicting people’s corpses and what happened to them that caught my attention. There’s a scene in which ‘Kristian’ finds a bus he’s been searching frantically for, only to find it full of battered dead bodies. It was a sobering image.

‘Interesting panic scene. Hardcore end’ – There’s a scene where some of our characters are trapped in a flooding bomb shelter and one of them experiences a panic attack that endangers everybody else in the situation. The way the situation is dealt with, by someone I didn’t expect something as drastic as that from,played out with some impact.

‘Good Race Against Time set-up’ – The actual wave scene is only about 10 minutes of the overall run-time, with the rest being about the search and rescue of survivors. Our main characters find themselves in ‘life-threatening situation’ after ‘life-threatening situation’, in circumstances that make sense for the scenario.

‘CPR scene straight out of The Abyss. Verging on rip-off.’ – We get a scene where a character is unable to make it to a certain point underwater and drowns. After they’re pulled from the water and frantic CPR is performed, there’s still no life. All seems lost. Then…a loved one refuses to throw in the towel and continues desperately treating the person, not willing to give up…and then…*cough*. Just like in James Cameron’s fantastic 1989 flick ‘The Abyss’.

‘Total Hollywood survivors reveal’ – As if they were going through the Hollywood Disaster Movie Checklist, we get a shot at the end where a character watches a rescue helicopter land and waits for her loved ones to emerge. Only they don’t. The chopper then lifts off…revealing her loved ones walking toward us from behind it!! In appropriately cheezy slow motion!!

‘Simple survivor story’ – Really, at it’s core, ‘The Wave’ is exactly that…a simple survivor story. The Main Event, the rock-slide and tidal wave, take up very little time in the story, with the majority being dedicated to the search for survivors, while also struggling to survive. It was simple…and for me, the film worked because of it.

And that was it. Those were my scribbles.
All in all, ‘The Wave’ was more engaging than I expected it to be. It was a basic yet plausible premise that made the most out of it’s limited budget and dedicated cast. It looks great, sounded amazing, shows us some genuinely scary scenes of destruction and gave us fairly rounded characters to root for. If you’re into Disaster Movies and can handle the subtitles, I can easily recommend this one. For a lazy Sunday afternoon, this was exactly what the geologist ordered. It’s on Netflix…ride ‘The Wave’, people!

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