Twister (1996) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Twister (1996) Directed by Jan de Bont. With Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jami Gertz.


Following-up on his success directing the Keanu Reeves action-thriller Speed, ex-cinematographer-turned-director Jan de Bont’s Hollywood stock had risen. With a screenplay co-written by Michael Crichton and with Steven Spielberg aboard as Executive Producer, Twister is a high-profile $92,000,000 film about bad wind.

As it turned out, people flocked to see it (the final box office haul stands at just shy of $500m) – even without a marquee name attached to the cast-list. Strictly a summer ‘event’ movie, Twister stars Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as a will-they-won’t-they (you know they will) storm-chasers in the US state of Oklahoma. It’s a complicated soup, though. Bill and Helen used to be an item – but are now on the brink of divorce. Bill shows up at the beginning of the film with his new fiancé in tow (a stiff-looking Jami Gertz), just as Helen and her team of rock n’ roll weather fanatics are prepping to track a brewing storm. Of course, Bill and his increasingly traumatised fiancé end up tagging along (he left the band a while ago, but he’s clearly still got the bug for it) – which begins this stop-start drama-adventure in which Mother Nature plays the central antagonist.

Although the sight of the actual twisters in action is an impressive one (flying cows are the highlight), the screenplay is downright awful. Paxton and Hunt’s relationship is about as corny, predictable and one-dimensional as you’re likely to see. More than that, it’s grating to see them forced to go-through-the-emotions as the film attempts the leverage some kind of token human interest beyond the blustery appeal of the high winds. Philip Seymour Hoffman (yes him) is cast in the role of an airhead storm-chaser, and though he seems stoned the most of the way through the film, at least he seems to be enjoying himself.

This being Hollywood, we have to have some humans to boo-hiss too. Step-forward Cary Elwes (surely he can’t play the arrogant bad guy after Hot Shots!?), leading a rival team of storm-geeks – complete with nerdy head-sets and an impressive motorcade of black government vehicles. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think it was something straight out of a spoof.

Despite its huge financial returns, Twister feels like paint-by-numbers blockbuster film-making. It has box office-friendly spectacle, which would have made it an easy film to market, but at the eye of the storm is merely a hollow dramatic core. 2.5/5


About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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17 Responses to Twister (1996) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. Paul S says:

    I was one of the people who flocked to the cinema to see Twister back in 1996. It’s a picture that has left absolutely no impression on me, except, of course, the memory of the flying cow.
    I doubt I’ll ever watch this one again, but your review did bring a smile to my face. Thanks for that!

    • garethrhodes says:

      The flying cow definitely hangs in there. Little moments like that aside, it is a desperately flat experience. I watched it little over four hours ago, and even now I’m struggling to recall things. Thank you for reading.

  2. chr1 says:

    Thanks for this. It made a lot of noise, but it was empty inside.

  3. princessennui says:

    I have to admit, I like this film solely for the tornadoes. I was wild about tornadoes in elementary school, so Twister, Night of the Tornadoes, and Tornado! were all very important films in my childhood nostalgia. But yeah, I often just skipped to the twisters on VHS. There really does need to be some sort of just the good parts edits for films like Twister, Titanic, and, yes, Godzilla (2014). 🙂

  4. filmfunkel says:

    I’ve always loved this one. Like Sean Penn doing Jeff Spicoli, my first exposure to Hoffman was here & I thought the man was like that until I saw Big Lebowski & my admiration for his acting was forever cemented.

    Plus Van Hagar doing the soundtrack – how weird was that?

    • garethrhodes says:

      Haha! “Van Hagar” – I actually saw ‘Van Hagar’ in concert in 1995 – they were pretty good, but I missed Dave.

      You know, the more I think about this one, the more the two central characters remind me of Sam Neill and Laura Dern in Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton and Steven Speilberg were involved with both films too.

      • filmfunkel says:

        Ok then, so who would you cast as Jami Gertz’s counterpart to play Sam Neil’s fiancé?

        (My first two thoughts were Molly Ringwald or Sigourney Weaver, but they would clearly make things too weird.)

      • garethrhodes says:

        Good question. Weaver is a little too high profile (and good) for such a peripheral part, so staying with your brat-pack idea – I might plump for Demi Moore, cause she’s just the right amount of ‘a bit rubbish’ to fulfil the role.

      • Paul S says:

        Interesting discussion. I’d plump for a young Sandra Bullock, just after she’d exploded into the big time with Speed.

      • garethrhodes says:

        Haha! Great choice! I really like her, though, I can’t imagine dumping her for Laura Dern. I thought she was great fun in Demolition Man too.

  5. filmfunkel says:

    Nice. : D

  6. Chris Evans says:

    Great review Gareth. I think this was a disposalbe piece of entertainment and of it’s time, Bill Paxton’s always great but looking back at Philip Seymour Hoffman in this is quite odd!

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you very much, always good to hear from you. Yes, I have lots of time for Bill Paxton. I remember being really pleased for him to get a big opportunity like this, although I wish I could speak more highly of the film.

  7. Shane Ongley says:

    Nice review, I remember enjoying it a lot but I haven’t seen it in year’s, kinda tempted to watch it now just to see how bad it is.

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