Film: The Wave

Evidently, The Burning Seareviewed here last month—is the first in a series of Norwegian disaster films. That series began with The Wave (2015), a superb Scandinavian take on the classic film genre. Set near the coastal town of Geiranger, The Wave imperils the Eikjord family: father Kristian (Kristoffer Joner), mother Idun (Ane Dahl Torp), teenaged son Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro), and young daughter Julia (Edith Haagenrud-Sande). Kristian is a geologist, finishing off an extended stint working at a seismic monitoring station. Its mission is to provide early warning to the community in the event of a tsunami—an inevitability, given the rockslide-prone nature of the fjord. Kristian has quit to take a job in the oil industry, and is planning to relocate his family, he and the kids heading out first while Idun finishes up her final shifts managing a tourist hotel. On the last day of Kristian’s job, odd groundwater readings set off alarms that cause him to delay his departure. His more sanguine colleagues assume it’s a glitch and that Kristian is just having trouble letting go of his old responsbilities, but as it turns out, something catastrophic is about to happen—which leaves the Eikjords fighting for their lives when the inevitable finally occurs.

Like most disaster movies, The Wave isn’t particularly deep. But unlike most disaster movies, it approaches its premise from a serious angle and makes intelligent decisions to situate its heroes in the crisis. Viewers experienced in the genre will find the plot beats predictable, but sometimes tropes are tropes for a reason, and here they contribute to well clocked, suspenseful execution. The whole cast is earnest and effective, with Joner and Torp especially good in roles that are both physically and emotionally strenuous. It is structurally unsurprising, to say the least, but the experience is tense and captivating, which is precisely what this type of film requires.

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