A picturesque vacation town, a disaster waiting to happen, and a brilliant geologist that no one will believe. This is the recipe for The Wave (Bølgen), director Roar Uthaug’s thrilling and distinctly Norwegian riff on the Hollywood disaster picture.
Taking all the standard tropes of the disaster movie and transplanting them to rural Norway, The Wave follows Kristian (Kristoffer Joner), his wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) and children Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) and Julia (Edith Haagenrud-Sande), a tight knit family about to move away from their small mountain town to the big city. The family’s plans are put on hold when a massive rockslide that Kristian predicted would happen sends an 80 metre tidal wave barrelling towards the tiny village.
Appropriately, The Wave takes some time to get going, carefully introducing the family and the residents of the town to insure that the audience is invested by the time disaster strikes. When the inevitable does finally happen, the movie kicks into high gear. The titular set piece is a sight to behold and the aftermath is just as knuckle-biting – a lakeside hotel is transformed into a small scale version of The Poseidon Adventure, complete with panicky idiots and selfless sacrifices for the greater good.
Part of what makes The Wave feel unusual for a disaster pic is the wholly Scandinavian concern for others that you simply don’t see in American disaster films. Where the typical disaster movie would surround its main characters with dozens of nameless extras to be killed off (to amp up the stakes, naturally), Kristian and Idun do everything they can to help their friends and neighbours escape certain doom. They do this with varying degrees of success (what’s the fun of a disaster film with no casualties?), but their efforts really help endear the characters to the audience. As it turns out, small acts of heroism are far more compelling to watch than $10 million city-obliterating set pieces in this sort of movie. Who knew? But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of destruction on display for Roland Emmerich aficianados.
The Wave is quite simply one of the scariest and most exhilarating disaster movies that’s been made in a long time, one made all the more compelling by the sweet family story at its heart.
SEP 16 9:00 PM @ Ryerson
SEP 17 5:00 PM @ Scotiabank Theatre Scotiabank 1