DIR: Steven Quale • WRI: John Swetnam • PRO:Todd Garner • DOP: Brian Pearson • ED: Eric A. Sears • DES: David Sandefur • MUS: Brian Tyler • CAST: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh
Ever wondered what Twister would be like with less of a plot, truly forgettable characters but vastly better special effects and the disaster spectacle upgraded to Man of Steel levels? Into the Storm is the film for you.
Being as nakedly a spectacle film as this is, it feels redundant to even summarise it but, there is technically a plot so; high schooler (Deacon) ends up trapped during a big storm, his dad (Armitage) has to race across town to rescue him before the storm strikes again. All the while there’s a very ‘one last job’-sounding collection of storm-chasers who are trying to film this particular storm because, wouldn’t you know, it’s the biggest storm there ever was. They all meet in the middle, a few characters get killed for motivational purposes, someone heroically sacrifices themselves etc. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll see people on fire; you get the deal.
From literally the first scene, it’s worth knowing that this film is loud. Like really, really loud. Children would cry in terror, loud. Once your hearing has sufficiently adjusted/been pummelled into submission, you can certainly appreciate that it does at least manage to create a quite immersive soundscape, though naturally it wears off and becomes irritating toward the end. (Short sequences of everything smashing and exploding? Effective. Twenty straight minutes of it? Obnoxious.) When it works though, it proves engaging enough to distract you from the across-the-board irritating characters, the pointless, monumentally idiotic-in-context found-footage aesthetic, and the weird tonal inconsistencies.
In the never-ending pantheon of found-footage movies, Into the Storm is a demonstration of how stupid Chronicle could have looked. That film had the excuse of the characters using their superpowers to justify the cameras moving and floating around and it just about got away with it. Into the Storm by comparison simply uses the excuse of: everyone has cameras and will use them all the time, no matter how many feet away from certain death they are. This means that the shots are nicely varied (which, as ever, raises the question of why it even needed to be found-footage) but it never stops looking ridiculous and occasionally, hilariously suicidal. To the film’s credit, it at least has the common sense to show a few of these nominees for the Darwin Awards being horribly killed for their hubris. (It’s also worth questioning, where does everyone get these incredibly wind and water resistant cameras?)
The entire enterprise has a strangely bemused, misanthropic apathy running through it. The storm-chaser characters aren’t held in particularly high regard by the screenplay, their only meaningful contribution to the world seemingly being the encouragement of amateur copycats. Said copycats being amongst the most insufferable of ‘comic-relief characters’ to assault one’s senses in some time; to call them paper-thin, redneck stereotypes is to do a disservice to the many and varied uses of paper. On top of this, there’s repeated lip service paid to why these super-storms are happening more frequently (though the words ‘global warming’ are never once uttered, no doubt in an attempt to adhere to America’s warped sense of ‘balance’ where issues like this are concerned), but it’s never talked about as if these disasters are a warning to be heeded. Rather, every character just shrugs it off and accepts in a disinterested tone that humans are the worst, nature is pretty powerful and we’re all going to be wiped off the face of the planet. Now, while this could have bordered dangerously close to being interesting, the film obviously loses its nerve and gives the expected ‘we have each other, live in the moment, blah, blah’ crap in its closing moments as everyone stands around, bloody, beaten, in some cases dead, and universally homeless.
All that aside… The film is fine. You’ll note how none of the posters feature a single character from the movie, this is disaster-porn, pure and simple, and in that light it’s not unentertaining. The cast is needlessly large enough that none of them get enough screen-time to become truly irritating (aside from the rednecks), the film knows that no one is here for a ‘human interest’ story and paces itself accordingly. It’s never particularly boring and the escalating stupidity of the set-pieces mean there is certainly some fun stuff to laugh at. Wind-tunnels are always funny and you’d have to be impressively dead inside not to get a kick out of seeing a guy (who in the previous scene was convinced not to quit storm-chasing) killed trying to retrieve his camera by being pulled into a twister literally made of fire.
On the whole though, there’s not really enough here to recommend it. The aforementioned fun stuff is pretty sparse when considered against the overall running time and yes, there are some effective sequences which justify seeing the film on the biggest, loudest screen you can find but that rollercoaster-ride aspect of it is nowhere near as consistent and sustained as say, a film like Gravity, which would noticeably lose something away from the big screen. Into the Storm is probably a better watch in a setting that involves a couch and some other humans that can be conversed with during the boring scenes of people crying before they’re rescued at the last second. It’s fine, it’s really fine, but it’s not much more than that.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Into the Storm is released on 20th August 2014