Thw Wave (2015) Directed by Roar Uthaug. With Kristian Eikjord and Ane Dahl Torp.
Such is the expanse of ambition throughout world cinema today, that small countries like Norway can compete with Hollywood when it comes to big screen manifestations of ferocious natural disaster. Directed by Roar Uthaug (the man behind the 2018 Tomb Raider reboot), ‘The Wave’ (Bølgen) is a handsome-looking film set on an idyllic mountainside location that picks up on the eve of a catastrophic rock slide.
Kristian Eikjord is Joner, a geologist preparing his young family to leave town following a change in his career. At the eleventh hour, his colleagues notice anomalous readings from the mountains which bother him greatly, however, everybody else thinks he’s overreacting. Think Chief Brody in Jaws, trying to convince the Amity Island council to close the beach because of the shark. It’s much the same build.
From the first few magnificent shots, John Christian Rosenlund’s cinematography is breathtaking. Beautiful tracking shots reminiscent of Kubrick’s The Shining follow a car along a mountainside road, with grand vistas and a quaint sense of quality living in a blissful place. So it’s an odd feeling to feel invited and terrified by a location in one sitting, which thanks to claims of a real-world threat of such an event, is what The Wave achieves.
The lead performances of Eikjord and his screen wife, Ane Dahl Torp are grounded and personable. Their quiet-life family dynamic is enough to make us care, even when the boundaries of reality are stretched. As panic escalates, Eikjord carries a sense of fraught tension well, while the CGI effects blend with the physical aspects to create a satisfying enactment of what extreme devastation looks like.
Beats are played from the likes of Jaws, The Impossible, The Day After Tomorrow,The Abyss…to name but a few. It almost has the feel of international movies fighting back against the Hollywood regurgitation of original ideas, as Uthaug and his writers serve Tinseltown back its own repackaged product. Derivative though it is, it still manages to be gripping and suspenseful, only tripping itself up with the Hollywoodisation of its final third. Before that, it’s a mature foreign language film that shows greater promise than it can finally deliver on. A sequel entitled ‘The Quake‘ is now in the works.