“The Wave” London Film Festival review

Review originally published here.

Making geology sexy is the order of the day in new Norwegian disaster movie The Wave, a high-action thriller which explores the effect of a possible tsunami on a small coastal tourist town.

Spectacular fjords and mountains form the backdrop to the Eikfjord family home. Geologist father Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) and mother Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) have decided to leave their immeasurably beautiful village idyll – a place so beautiful one might weep looking out of the kitchen window – so that Kristian can take a higher-paying urban job working for an oil company. Cue friendly jesting from his friends about how capitalists dress in suits and ties, unlike rugged, blue collar geologists. The couple’s two children – a teenage son and a young daughter – are well-balanced and happy, their marriage is good and they have many friends. From the outset, it is obvious that the audience will not be left pondering the subtleties of right and wrong in director Roar Uthaug’s entertaining but uncomplicated thriller.

In fact, despite the Norwegian language and setting, The Wave takes the traditional Hollywood disaster movie template and reproduces it in full. With the exception of the parents, nearly every adult in the film has a risible ignorance of their own mortality, either standing about helplessly until someone tells them to run away, or panicking to such a degree that they actively impede the survival of everyone else. Nobody listens to everyman Kristian when he warns of impending rockslides. Ah, says the audience; I know this tune. The influence of 1990s disaster blockbusters is palpable.

Well-worn tropes aside, the performances are strong and it’s refreshing to see actors with the odd line or wrinkle in the heroic roles for a change. The disaster scenes are satisfyingly large-scale and make good use of the night-time setting to add tension and atmosphere, with dark, jagged peaks, fog and streaming clouds of later scenes contrasting well against the earlier romance of blue waters and rocky green ridges.

The Wave is never boring, with a fast pace, an easily-followed storyline, and judiciously applied CGI artfully limited to the rock-and-water devastations of the film’s enjoyably colossal action shots. Despite its familiar feel, this is a fun film, with a solid share of thrills and nail-biting suspense.

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