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The Wave (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 28, 2020

The Wave

The Wave


Starring Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Thomas Bo Larson, Fridtjov Såheim, Jonas Hoff Oftebro, Arthur Berning, Edith Haagenrud-Sande, Laila Goody, Lado Hadzic,  Eili Harboe, Mette Agnete Horn, Herman Bernhoft, Tom Larsen, Silje Breivik and Håkon Moe.

Screenplay by John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg.

Directed by Roar Uthaug.

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures.  105 minutes.  Rated R.

You wouldn’t expect a Norwegian disaster film to be one of the nominees for Best Foreign Feature Film in the Oscars.  However, The Wave isn’t just another disaster film.

The Wave is a quirky and fascinating mix of foreign art school indie and Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno) blockbuster, and that is meant as a huge compliment.  It has all the basics of an Allen film – horrific tragic natural disaster, causing hardship and massive destruction – mixed in with three-dimensional characterization, spectacular scenery and eventual devastation, and even a somewhat understated ecological message.  (Well, I guess you can’t have a tsunami destroying a Norwegian village and be considered understated, but at the very least they don’t hit you over the head over the understated global warming alarm.)

The basic story feels like something you’ve seen many times – although never in Norwegian with subtitles.

It takes place in a gorgeous tourist destination called Geiranger, a lake community deep in the heart of the Alps.  Blue water, lovely resorts, stunning mountains, it is a truly amazing setting.  However, for all of the spectacular scenery, the town has to keep a close eye on the shifting plates of the mountain, for any sizable avalanche would leave the miles-long lake’s water no place to go, it would overflow over the town like a tsunami.  And if that happens, the entire town would only have ten minutes to make it to very high ground.

Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) is a smart, dedicated engineer who works for the team keeping and eye on the changes in the mountain, trying to get an early warning out if something does happen.  Of course, nothing has happened in years, so the group has become a bit lax in their monitoring.  Not surprisingly for this kind of film, it is Kristian’s last day on the job – he’s been offered a lucrative job in the city and is moving there with his family as soon as he is done – when he suddenly realizes that the numbers seem a little odd.

He postpones the move a day while he is trying to figure out what is going on.  He drops his teen son off with his wife at her job in a huge hotel – she is also working one last day – and he and his younger daughter return to their now-empty home.

In the meantime, he talks some of his co-workers into checking the sensors tracking the tectonic plates.  Unfortunately, by the time he has recognized the danger of the situation, the mountain plates have tragically shifted, which leads to a huge avalanche and a churning wall of water washing through the valley town, leaving thousands killed and many, many more rushing desperately for higher ground.  All the while, Kristian is trying to help people and find his separated family.

If it sounds a bit like formula, somehow it does not play like it.  Extremely good acting and some smart plot twists elevate The Wave above normal b-filmmaking.  And I’ve got to say, despite the relatively low budget, the effects are often stunning, particularly a shot of a huge tidal wave closing in on the large hotel complex.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2016 All rights reserved. Posted: March 9, 2016.

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