Sunday, November 30, 2014

Into the Storm - a natural disaster

movie review

The tornadoes are the only heroes in Into the Storm

Disaster movies often seem to be an excuse for filmmakers to splurge millions of dollars on elaborate special effects, expending more effort on computer-generated imagery (CGI) and less on script and character development. This is the very problem that befalls Into the Storm, a disaster thriller that is visually impressive but leaves much to be desired in every other department.

Employing the found footage trope to tiring effect, the film comprises of intertwined segments, following the arcs of different sets of characters that cross paths as the movie progresses.

Each team is (forcibly) given a reason to carry a (seemingly damage-proof, perpetually charged) camera. A group of storm chasers — filmmaker Pete (Matt Walsh), meteorologist Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies) and their cameramen — are working on a documentary, trying to shoot footage of an elusive tornado. A high-school vice principal (Richard Armitage) has asked his teenage sons (Max Deacon and Nathan Kress) to make video time capsules and to film the school’s graduation ceremony. And a bunch of daredevils (Kyle Davis and Jon Reep) are intent on behaving like an amateur version of the Jackass crew, taping their crazy antics and eager to become the next YouTube sensations.

Then the tornadoes strike. Some of the players willingly venture into the danger. Others inadvertently end up in the path of the disaster. Ultimately, they all find themselves caught in a struggle for survival.

Unconcerned with plausibility and consistency, Into the Storm shows us nature’s wrath through the lens of people who keep filming when both instinct and logic would tell them to forget about the video and focus on staying alive. The characters are dull and generic since their dialogues are mundane, their actions absurd and their relationships clich├ęd, while the acting is mostly serviceable. The cast may not comprise of Hollywood’s biggest names, but you can still tell that these performers have been in better projects.

The real stars of the movie, though, are the tornados — spectacular, fierce, horrific, and beautifully rendered. Visually, the film is a sight to behold and one will come out of the theatre grateful that they haven’t had to experience these forces of nature themselves. But director Steven Quale doesn’t succeed in complementing the visual spectacle with compelling human drama. And you know something has gone amiss when the weather patterns have more personality than the characters.

Ultimately, Into the Storm comes off as bland and vacant, as it fails to make much of a connection with the viewers. The one-dimensional characters don’t give one a reason or the chance to be invested in their storylines or their ultimate fate, which strips the movie of emotional weight and suspense. Watch it for its special effects wizardry and you will be impressed. But if you try to look for something deeper underneath its shiny CGI surface, you will be left disappointed.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

Sunday Magazine, The Express Tribune - 30th November, 2014 *

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