WORLDLY WEDNESDAY: "THE WAVE" ON NETFLIX
Though it's based on two real incidents and draws on a surprisingly dense amount of real geology and science to set up exactly how and why its titular tsunami goes down, “The Wave” ends up being a very conventional Hollywood-style disaster film. That's not really a problem at all. It's a QUITE GOOD variation on the Hollywood disaster film, a reminder that formulas exist because they are satisfying when filled with compelling incidents and likable characters.
"The Wave" does exactly that, carefully establishing the picturesque small town and the family-in-peril residing there. In particular, nebbishy well-meaning workaholic dad Kristian (Kristoffer Joner, who kind of looks like a more optimistic, Scandinavian Thom Yorke) - is three-dimensional enough that you fear for him when he's dunked under 300 feet of roiling waters.
The film was Norway’s official submission for Best Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards, and it deals with a central disaster that’s unique to Scandinavia. The collapse of the Åkerneset crevasse, a real-life fjord, triggers an avalanche which then causes an 80-meter tsunami that levels the (also real) town of Geiranger. It’s then up to geologist Kristian to save his family, and anyone else he can along the way. (The film ends with a warning that these events totally could occur in real life, which must be rather chilling for the locals.)
Director Roar Uthaug wisely escalates the tension and the lengths to which characters will have to go to survive, gradually, slowly transitioning from a natural realism in the first hour to cinematic hero stuff in the back half. But it never comes off as intensely ludicrous or cartoony, like Hollywood variations on this theme such as "2012" (with its planes taking off from volcanic crumbling runways) or "San Andreas" (with its... everything.)
Also, one scene requires determined mother Idun (Ana Dahl Torp) to go WAY beyond what I thought the film would ask of her to protect her son, Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro). That scene (which I would not dream of spoiling here) perfectly illustrates how you can still surprise audiences even within a pretty predictable genre storyline.
A sequel, "The Quake," featuring the same central cast and writers, was released in 2018, but I have not yet seen it. You can rent it on Amazon.
Title: "The Wave"
Where to Watch: Netflix
Running time: 105 minutes
Genre: Action Thriller
In Norwegian with English subtitles