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The Wave: Red alert deep in the mountains

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- Norwegian director Roar Uthaug hits the mark with a fast-paced, spectacular and nail-biting disaster film, set amidst the maelstrom of a tsunami

Review

A highly eclectic director who seems irresistibly drawn into exploring genre films (see the horror-thriller Cold Prey [+see also:
trailer
interview: Roar Uthaug
film profile
]
in 2006, the heroic fantasy tale Magic Silver [+see also:
trailer
interview: Roar Uthaug
film profile
]
in 2009, and the medieval action movie Escape [+see also:
interview: Roar Uthaug
film profile
]
in 2012), Norway’s Roar Uthaug is making a big splash in European film production with his fourth feature, The Wave [+see also:
trailer
film focus
interview: Roar Uthaug
film profile
]
, which was presented as the opening film of the seventh Les Arcs European Film Festival.

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A disaster film that uses as its premise the real-life situation of the magnificent Geiranger Fjord – the epicentre of a mountainous backdrop, where landslides already caused a deadly tsunami in 1905, and which has been subject to intensive scientific monitoring ever since – The Wave is an extraordinary example of the filmmaker's mastery of special effects (featuring a terrifying 80-metre-high wave that comes crashing down on a small town), suspense management, and gripping and unexpected plot twists in this story revolving around a family trying to survive in the face of the overwhelming forces of nature.

A modern-day geologist working in a small team at the high-tech Geiranger monitoring station, Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) is about to leave his job and the town itself in order to start working in the oil industry. For him and his family (his wife Idun, a receptionist at the big hotel for tourists in the area – played by Ane Dahl Torp – his older, teenage son Sondre and his little daughter Julia), it's time to pack their belongings away in cardboard boxes and say goodbye to their colleagues and neighbours. The grand departure is scheduled for the following day, but some unusual indications suddenly appear on the video screens used to monitor the faults in the mountain. With worry and some kind of sixth sense gnawing away at him, Kristian puts off the move by 24 hours, despite the fact that the other scientists are sceptical, and his family are growing increasingly annoyed and weary with his obsession over work. But this bad feeling of his will gradually prove to be justified, as seismic tremors cause the rock to contract sharply, thus instantly spawning a tsunami that will come hurtling down on the town in just ten minutes...

Playing the disaster card, which is announced in advance by means of the archive images that open the film, The Wave unfurls an extremely effective structure, making the best of its natural setting, which is both imposing and very beautiful, and a well-balanced dramatic escalation (a calm and relaxed exposition, suspense that gradually gains in intensity, before the action is unleashed, which sees the family fighting for survival, split into two duos), thanks to screenwriters John Kare Raake and Harald Rosenlow-Eeg. Capitalising on the undeniable charisma of his lead actor, Kristoffer Joner, and unafraid to sometimes unashamedly draw on the “predictable” tricks of melodrama, Roar Uthaug offers viewers quite an impressive mainstream film in the same vein as The Impossible [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Juan Antonio Bayona
film profile
]
by Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona. The feature was unveiled at Toronto before going on to be a smash hit in Norwegian cinemas (taking 800,000 admissions in a country with a population of 5 million), and it has been chosen as its country's candidate for the upcoming Oscars. And by the by, the US majors have already got hold of the filmmaker, who is now set to direct the reboot of Tomb Raider for MGM and Warner.

(Translated from French)

photogallery

international title: The Wave
original title: Bølgen
country: Norway, Sweden
year: 2015
directed by: Roar Uthaug
screenplay: John Kåre Raake, Harald Rosenløw-Eeg
cast: Kristoffer Joner, Thomas Bo Larsen, Fridtjov Såheim, Ane Dahl Torp, Lado Hadzic, Arthur Berning

main awards/selection

Les Arcs International Film Festival 2015 
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