Editor’s Note: The Wave opens in limited theatrical release today, March 4, 2016.
It’s Kristian’s last day at his job at a warning station that monitors Åkneset Mountain, a real-world location that geologists have been watching closely for some time, especially a fissure in the mountainside that is expected to collapse into the fjord underneath. This collapse may very well cause a catastrophic wave which would wipe out nearby towns and tourist attractions, and it’s this potential disaster that worries Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) as he clears out his office and his home for a new start in the big city. And just as it says on the tin, disaster does indeed strike, and it’s up to Kristian to rescue his wife and two children from the coming tidal wave.
Like plenty of actioners before it, The Wave, Norway’s first disaster film, shows only vague concern for the human beings outside the family at the focus of the story.
Like plenty of actioners before it, The Wave, Norway’s first disaster film, shows only vague concern for the human beings outside the family at the focus of the story. Unlike most other films, however, this lack of concern manifests as outright contempt. If you’re not related to Kristian by blood, then you probably brought your death on yourself, or at least the film’s gonna imply that until the final frame. When Kristian comes looking for his family, if you’re one of about eight dozen mangled corpses lying in a pile, you’re just something for him to step over. At best, your dead body will briefly remind him of a missing family member, and an emotion or two will flicker across his face.
There’s a whole heap of stubborn, clueless and stupid people in the family’s immediate orbit, which is handy, because as Agatha Christie showed us nearly a century ago, you don’t want to develop a fondness for a doomed character. Most of these vague sketches of inept humanity are Kristian’s colleagues at the warning station, people he has to school on basic Geology 101 facts. It’s hardly believable that everyone working at the station is incompetent, and rises to the level of ludicrous when Kristian leaves on his last day with all his research notebooks filled with information on Åkneset, then just tosses them in the trash.
The Wave feels shopworn and incomplete, like a Hollywood blockbuster that lost one-third of its script in a freak word processing accident.
Once past all this initial clumsiness, The Wave finally starts to come into its own. There’s some fine pacing and solid character development in the case of Kristian’s wife Idun (a terrific Ane Dahl Torp). The special effects are top notch as well, and even when characters are standing around gaping long after an actual human being would have started running for their lives, the excitement is genuine and palpable.
Still, The Wave feels shopworn and incomplete, like a Hollywood blockbuster that lost one-third of its script in a freak word processing accident. Characters with potential find their personalities drying up, and moments that hint at anything outside of the railroad plot die on the vine. There are thrills to be had and nails to be bitten, but there’s always the feeling that something in The Wave is missing; namely, a soul.
The Wave, Norway's first disaster film and the country's official submission for the 2015 Academy Awards, boasts terrific special effects, but shows little concern for the people affected by the disaster at the center of the story.