The Wave (Bølgen)
Director: Roar Uthaug
Writers: John Kåre Raake, Harald Rosenløw-Eeg
Stars: Kristoffer Joner, Thomas Bo Larsen, Ane Dahl Torp
Basic Plot: A geologist attempts to save his family from a tidal wave of disaster in rural Åkneset, Norway.
Review By Mike DeAngelo:
Disaster movies tend to be an exclusively American genre. I’m not entirely sure if it’s a budgetary reason or a matter of taste. Regardless, that’s just the way it is. Usually these films are handed to directors that fall into what I call the “Michael Bay School of Directing” – they tend to value big-budget effects over character development. In these films, there’s almost always a male hero trying to keep his family from perishing in some kind of extravagant “end of the world” scenario. We all know what happens - lots of crashing and running along with corny tag lines spoken by some actor who’s clearly in it for the paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, if you go into these films with the right mindset they can be pretty fun, but they almost always require you to shut off the part of the brain that says “that could never happen.” Leave it to the Norwegians to show us how it’s really done.
The Wave is not only a good disaster film, it’s a well-acted, well written, and beautifully shot film (Yes, you’ll have to read subtitles, you big baby). Director Roar Uthaug (who will be helming next year’s Tomb Raider reboot) doesn’t try to remake the wheel here in terms of story structure. The film still very much sticks to the clichés we see in every disaster movie. The difference is in the execution.
First, instead of casting some brain dead Norwegian eye-candy for the audience to gush over for two hours, Roar recruited some of Norway’s best dramatic actors. This not only helps the dramatic scenes, it grounds the entire film in reality. Kristoffer Joner, in particular, gives a fantastic lead performance as the geologist and father that needs to save his family from disaster.
The other big victory for this film is that it never forces you to shut off your brain. Everything that happens feels scarily realistic and is based on scientific estimates for what would actually happen, has previously happened, and WILL actually happen when these Norwegian Fjords do eventually fall. The writers also never force their characters into unrealistic situations just because the action would look neat – this is the cardinal sin of most American disaster films.
Combine those elements with some absolutely gorgeous cinematography from John Christian Rosenlund, and you’ve got a shockingly solid disaster film on your hands. I’d love to see American disaster movies take a few notes from this little gem – most notably, that you cam please both the head AND the heart in one big-budget movie. Then again, Roland Emmerich, Michael Bay, and The Rock need to work sometime…so, bye bye brain cells.
OVERALL RATING: 8/10 Fjords
The Wave is now playing on VOD and in arthouse theatres across the country.