Synopsis: Even though awaited, no-one is really ready when the mountain pass of Åkneset above the scenic narrow Norwegian fjord Geiranger falls out and creates a 85-meter-high violent tsunami. A geologist is one of those caught in the middle of it.
Release Date: March 4, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Action, Drama
The tagline for the Norwegian thriller The Wave is “it was only a matter of time.” The ominous warning is explained in the film’s opening title cards; the maintain pass Åkneset is unstable, and a rockslide will trigger a tsunami in the Geiranger fjord that will destroy everything and kill everyone in its path. And that’s exactly what happens in the movie.
The Wave begins with a typical disaster movie opening where the audience gets to meet the characters and has a chance to become familiar with their personal lives. In this case, a geologist named Kristian (Kristoffer Joner from The Revenant) is celebrating his landing of a new job that will let him move away from the mountain along with his wife, Idun (Dead Snow‘s Ane Dahl Torp), and two children, Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro from Olsenbanden jr. og det sorte gullet) and Julia (cute little newcomer Edith Haagenrud-Sande). Before the family leaves the village, Kristian gets a bad feeling about the mountain, so he goes to his old workplace, the center which monitors the seismic activity of the mountain. He discovers that the instruments there are predicting a huge landslide that will set off a tsunami, and Kristian estimates that he only has about ten minutes to get everyone on the fjord – including his family – to safety.
Directed by the appropriately named Roar Uthaug (Cold Prey), The Wave is not a typical foreign movie, but it’s not your usual American disaster movie, either. It falls somewhere in the middle. It’s more mainstream than arthouse, but it’s not exploitative at all. There’s no uppity pretension like that which was found in 2014’s Force Majeure, yet there’s no gratuitous destruction like that found in the old Irwin Allen movies of the seventies. The closest comparison would probably be to 2012’s wonderfully gutting tsunami drama The Impossible. The violence of the disaster is not sugarcoated, but it’s not overly exaggerated, either.
There’s a big human element to The Wave. Like The Impossible, much of the movie deals with the characters locating each other in the aftermath of the disaster. The screenplay, written by John Kåre Raake (Ragnarok) and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg (1,000 Times Good Night), is as much about the triumph of the human spirit as it is about the destruction of mankind. The storyline seems very plausible and realistic, yet it’s still exciting enough to be fun. It’s not quite as heart-wrenching as The Impossible, but that’s only because the characters aren’t developed quite as well so the audience doesn’t feel as much for them.
That does not mean that the audience doesn’t feel anything at all. The Wave is a very visceral movie, tense and claustrophobic. One of the most effective scenes comes when two of Kristian’s old coworkers rappel down into a crevice in the mountain to check their sensors. Of course, the audience knows the chasm is contracting, so it’s a classic case of Hitchcockian show-them-the-bomb suspense. And it is terrifying.
The Wave is not a Michael Bay-style disaster movie. It feels more real than that. And it’s better that way.
Shot on location in the actual village of Geiranger in the mountains of Norway, The Wave looks absolutely beautiful. Cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund (1001 Grams) shows the audience as much of the gorgeous Norwegian landscape as he can, using sweeping helicopter shots to bring the natural beauty of the lush, green mountains to brilliant life. If it weren’t for the massive rock slide and the devastating tsunami, The Wave could double as an effective tourism film for Geiranger. At least, the external landscape scenes could.
The internal scenes are just as powerful, but in a different way. Roar Uthaug and John Christian Rosenlund used soundstages that gave them the ability to flood the sets with tons of water, allowing them to capture the destruction of the wave in the harshest way possible. Rosenlund uses shallow focus to collapse the image, making the locations look smaller and more entrapping. Most of the shots of the actual disastrous wave are CG effects, but Uthaug and Rosenlund are able to nail the desperation and desolation of the survivors in the aftermath without using much more than just their camera and a bunch of water.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Roar Uthaug
- Producer(s): Are HeidenstromMartin Sundland
- Screenwriter(s): John Kåre RaakeHarald Rosenløw-Eeg
- Cast: Kristoffer Joner (Kristian)Ane Dahl Torp (Idun)Jonas Hoff Oftebro (Sondre) Edith Haagenrud-Sande (Julia)Eili Harboe (Vibeke)Thomas Bo Larsen (Phillip)Fridtjov Såheim (Arvid Øvrebø)Arthur Berning (Jacob Vikra)Laila Goody (Margot Valldal)Lado Hadzic (Bussjåfør)Mette Agnete Horn (Maria)Silje Breivik (Anna)
- Editor(s): Christian Siebenherz
- Cinematographer: John Christian Rosenlund
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Karen Fabritius Gram
- Casting Director(s): Andrea EckerbomIngrid Lykkeslet Strømskag
- Music Score: Magnus Beite
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: Norway