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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Wave (Bølgen) movie review: disaster, Scandinavian style (#LFF2015)

The Wave Bolgen green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

The traditional Hollywood disaster flick goes to Norway, and is grim and gripping around all the time-honored ridiculous clichés crammed into it.
I’m “biast” (pro): who doesn’t love a good disaster movie?
I’m “biast” (con): most disaster movies aren’t very good
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s like Jaws, except the shark is a tsunami and Chief Brody is geologist Kristian (Kristoffer Joner: The Revenant), who is all “We’ve got to close the beaches!” (so to speak, and speaking in Norwegian) when he suspects that a mountainside in the fjord near the postcard-pretty little town he lives in is about to collapse and send an 80-foot wall of water into the cafes and the marinas and the sightseers. His skeptical colleagues worry about false alarms scaring away tourist money — see also: Jaws — and even his wife, Idun (Ane Dahl Torp), who works in the big hotel, tells him to relax, that “the mountain will be there for another thousand years.”

It won’t.

The Wave (Bølgen) is Scandinavia’s first disaster movie (or so the Norwegian Film Institute tells me), and Norway’s official submission for the upcoming Oscars in the Best Foreign-Language Film category… and it would be very interesting to see what is basically a traditional Hollywood disaster flick nab such a prestigious nomination. Director Roar Uthaug goes a tad grimmer than Hollywood of late — we see dead bodies floating in the water here after the tsunami hits, which was a thing San Andreas preposterously pretended wouldn’t be the case — but screenwriters John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg (A Thousand Times Good Night) cram plenty of time-honored ridiculous clichés into the story, from ensuring that Kristian’s teenage son (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) puts himself in as much jeopardy as possible when the tsunami alarm goes off to creating a for-real big red button that someone has to push to sound that alarm.

Have I mentioned how much I love this movie? It may be predictable, but it’s gripping nevertheless.

viewed during the 59th BFI London Film Festival

green light 3.5 stars

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The Wave (Bølgen) (2015) | directed by Roar Uthaug
US/Can release: Mar 04 2016 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: Aug 12 2016

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: rated 15 (strong threat, natural disaster scenes)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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