It would have been praise enough, I think, to say that The Wave harkens back to the most entertaining disaster flicks of the 1970s, employing the most visually terrifying of disaster-flick staples—the tsunami—to create a nerve-jangling, hand-wringing good time. But it’s all the more impressive for the fact that it originates from Norway.
The screenwriters base it in fact, too. The action occurs in the real tourist village of Geiranger in west Norway, which sits at the head of a fjord and is under constant threat from a mountain that could erode into the fjord and cause a tsunami. Suffice it to say a fictional tsunami gets caused, threatening fictional village folk, including a geologist (Kristoffer Joner) and his family.
Initially, the set-up kind of annoyed me. The screenwriters made the characters classic disaster-flick people—i.e. made them be and act a certain way to fit the plot—and also decided to go a little Jaws on us, having the geologist’s family and co-workers at the facility that monitors the mountain shake their head at, or outright dismiss, his warnings about the state of the mountain.
But director Roar Uthaug so skillfully, and realistically, builds up the impending-doom tension throughout the set-up that enduring a half-hour of clichéd characters and such felt like a small price to pay. He does this via computer screens that show water levels dropping, the geologists discovering severed sensor wires, and numerous, ominous shots of the mountain itself.
And he really delivers the disaster-flick goods once some of the mountain finally shakes loose, starting with the wave itself, a monster, 300-foot wall of CGI water made all the more frightening by how realistically Uthaug renders it. My jaw dropped more than once upon seeing it, particularly the shot of it towering over the hotel where Joner’s wife (Ane Dahl Torp) works.
The wave sequence doesn’t actually last very long, but no matter. Uthaug even makes the post-destruction stuff compelling, as Joner goes searching for his wife and teenage son (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) as they tread water in the bowels of the hotel. The level of devastation Uthaug is able to depict on what translates to a small American budget is amazing. He gets real bang for his buck. So will you. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 6/21/16