TIFF 2015: The Wave
With North America movie theatres so often dominated by Hollywood films, it’s a rare treat when we get to see a bonafide action blockbuster from a foreign country. There’s a curiosity to see how the American influence has affected the filmmaking process worldwide. With the Norwegian film The Wave, the disaster movie formula is alive and well, with a few unorthodox twists added in, but it’s still a fun ride worthy of finding an audience outside its home country.
A small picturesque Norwegian town sits on the edge of a fjord. It is a popular tourist destination, bringing guests in from all over the world. Towns that are situated on the water like this are always at risk of having rockslides causing tsunami waves to rush towards them. Based on real events, this has happened in the country before and it’s only a matter of time before it happens again. When usual data is appearing from the sensors in the mountain, a local geologist tries to warn his co-workers that something is not right.. When a massive amount of rock slides into the ocean, they must sound the alarm and a race against the impending disaster begins. When the wave comes, this town only has 10 minutes to evacuate to high enough ground before the water reaches them.
The structure of this film mimics that of its American counterpart. It hits all of the key plot points right on schedule. It sets up the premise, it has the knowledgeable character who understands the threat facing them, the coworkers in denial about the impending doom, separating the family members so that the parents have something to fight for, a mother who will do anything for her child, inconsequential characters making life-endangering decisions, total disaster destruction, and survival of the key characters we’ve gotten to know. The film follows this formula precisely and so it becomes easily predictable. However, it is a slick execution with a large budget that results in a film that extremely tense at times and fun to watch.
One of the first films of this scale to come from Norway, the budget allowed for this to be on par with its American counterparts. The visual effects of the water rushing towards the town are impressive and the stunts to show what’s happening as they are hit are convincing. The race against the clock is extremely tense. There are a few moments when the characters make eye-roll-worthy decisions for the convenience of the plot but for the most part the acting, in particular the parents of the main family we are following, is solid and believable.
With countries outside of North America attempting this kind of film now, it’s good that they examine and follow the established rulebook for how to execute it successfully. However, once they understand this formula, it would be constructive if filmmakers attempt to push the boundaries and get creative with the screenplay. Director Roar Uthaug shows an assured and confident hand in delivering this film and so going forward he should not be afraid to push for creativity and new ideas from his screenwriter to move past the well-worn and calculable formula to discover new ways of doing what has been done countless times before. If the viewer understands what kind of film they are going into and allow themselves to be absorbed by the story, it’s a great thrilling ride.
Read all of our ongoing coverage of TIFF 2015, including Film Reviews & More.