The Wave (2015)

*. Damn. Fjords. Now that’s what I call some beautiful scenery. I have a picture of a fjord set as my background as I’m writing this. I really need to visit Norway sometime before I die.
*. Now, take away the scenery and what we have here is a pretty standard disaster flick, which was by design. Director Roar Uthaug was inspired by Hollywood disaster movies like Twister and Armageddon and basically wanted to do the same thing in his native land. Is there anything wrong with wanting to be the Norwegian Michael Bay? Career-wise, probably not. On the strength of this film Uthaug would be tabbed to direct the Tomb Raider franchise reboot.
*. There’s a very obvious three-part structure. We begin with an intro that explains how disaster is looms above a Norwegian town in the form of a cliff that’s poised to fall into the fjord, which, when it does, will generate a tsunami. Everybody knows this is going to happen, they just don’t know when. In the meantime, they don’t want to scare off the tourists. Geiranger is like Amity North.
*. We are also introduced to the likeable family: mom (who manages a hotel), dad (he’s the paranoid geologist), teenage son (take off your headphones!), and little girl (clutching a stuffed animal). These will be our protagonists.
*. Then the much-anticipated disaster strikes. It’s CGI, but given how the place looks so much like a Lord of the Rings location I found this didn’t bug me as much as it usually does. Plus it’s not bad CGI. Which is to say it’s credible, as far as these things go.
*. Then a rather disappointing and improbable third act where the family have to reunite and save each other from the (strangely) burning wreckage of the town.
*. I’ve said the third act is disappointing. The Wave has the unfortunate look of a film that ran out of money and then had to wrap up shooting on a single set. This set, in turn, is only another version of the people trapped in a room slowly filling with water, pressing them up against the ceiling before they have to make the swim-for-life. Really. How many times have we seen this? This seems to me like one of those clichés that really should be retired unless somebody is going to try and reinvent it. Uthaug doesn’t do anything interesting with it here. Indeed, it even ends with a rehash of the famously bad scene in The Abyss where, after CPR fails to do the trick, you revive someone just by yelling at them to snap out of it.
*. Public service announcement: Don’t do CPR like you see people doing it in the movies. You’ll be wasting your time. You might as well just yell at them to snap out of it. There’s a reason it’s hard to show people doing proper CPR. It’s because you can’t do real CPR on a healthy person. You often break ribs and you can damage a heart that’s already beating. You really have to push down hard on the chest. Movie CPR is very misleading.
*. I wonder if there was any thought given to throwing in a bit of a twist at the end. Probably not. The family that stays together will survive big waves together. Group hug!
*. Well, it looks great. And there was one action sequence, when the wave hits the line of stopped cars, that had a somewhat fresh feel to it. But aside from that, it’s a pretty conventional disaster-movie-of-the-week. With fjords!

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