RogerBW's Blog

Bølgen 05 February 2018

2015 Norwegian disaster film, dir. Roar Uthaug, Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp: IMDb / allmovie. The Åkerneset mountain overlooks the tourist village of Geiranger, but a landslide could cause a tidal wave along the fjord. It's going to. vt The Wave.

Disaster films as a genre are generally split into the ones about averting the disaster and the ones about dealing with it. This is mostly the latter sort, but the disaster doesn't happen until half-way through the film. It's never dull, though: Kristian, our geologist-hero, is leaving his job monitoring the mountain to work for the oil companies in Stavanger, his family's unhappy about the move but coping with it, and the monitors on the rock face are starting to show anomalous readings…

In terms of plot structure, this film enthusiastically follows the standard disaster film pattern; but the clichés mostly flow logically out of plausible situations. Yes, the chief geologist doesn't want to sound the alarm in the middle of tourist season; but that's because the evidence really isn't enough to justify a total evacuation, unless you're a Mountain Whisperer like Kristian. Still, the plot is the weakest thing here, and if you've seen disaster films before you won't encounter any surprises.

On the other hand, everything else is great, and that does mostly make up for it. The cast are allowed to look like real people, not Hollywood dolls; the script lets them behave like grown-ups, occasionally making mistakes or overreacting to things, but realising that they've erred and apologising for it. With both of those things supporting their acting, their emotions feel genuine (the relationship between Kristian and his wife Idun, in particular, is superbly realistic). The standard problem of disaster films, that the humanising elements feel pasted-in and unconvincing, are thus avoided; indeed, at times it all feels quite harrowing.

Special effects are significant, but never seem overdone. The camera-work is superb, showing off gorgeous Norwegian fjord country at its best and worst; and the camera doesn't shy away, as many modern American films do, from showing dead bodies where there ought to be dead bodies.

It's not perfect, but it's pretty good. This is apparently the first Scandinavian-made disaster film; I wouldn't encourage them to stick this closely to the template again, but I'd certainly like to see more from cast and crew who are this good. Alas, director Roar Uthaug has been taken away by Hollywood; his next film is Tomb Raider. Oh well. At least we have this.

Trailer here; MaryAnn Johanson's review here.

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