Into the Storm
Directed by Steven Quale
Starring: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh
Opens August 1
The desire to compare Into the Storm with Twister, the genre busting granddaddy of tornado action films is undeniable and natural. Will cows fly through the air? Will we care about the characters? Will the effects blow us away? Will the leading lady ever face facts and tie her long hair back? Will they make anything remotely as unique as Twister? Well, dear reader, no, no, yes, no and yes.
The biggest difference between them is that Into the Storm is a found footage exercise, based on tapes shot by a family and an entire school for a time capsule. Twenty five years hence, the filmmakers hope to look back and see what they were and what they became. This nifty bit of business is Into the Storm’s ace in the hole. It takes us right inside the action both weather related and human and it is of our contemporary culture. Way back when Twister came out, cameras were used to shoot narrative features, not docu-drama mainstream product.
Despite the disappointing fact that no cows become airborne, there are many stunning sights to see. Excruciatingly vivid set pieces of tornados’ fury bearing down on the tiny town of Silverton are unparalleled. And they’re followed by a major weather monster.
I’m not giving anything away, it’s a tornado movie, and you know it’s going to be awesome in the Biblical sense. The tornados are the stars and they will be gargantuan, epic. CGI is capable of anything and to see a family on a hilltop as nine twisters dance on the horizon is well, remarkable.
John Armitage (The Hobbit, Robin Hood and Strikeback) isn’t just the local high school principal; he’s also the father of two boys (Max Deacon and Nathan Kress), on his own after the death of his wife. The boys resent his distracted, cold demeanour as he mourns her. We know this and a little more about the lead characters.
But it’s not awfully important because the main focus is the extreme weather story. That’s why we’re in the theatre, to watch nature blow things up.
The effects are loud, fierce and stunning, aided by a deep thrumming sound that sounds like the end of the world. Fires suddenly burst forth; people tear through the air and buildings and tree come loose everywhere you look. The screen is full and active. It’s like all the plagues of old, dished up in 89 minutes, no waiting.
Plotwise, the “weather event” occurs on the high school graduation day. The principal knows bad weather lies ahead but carries on with it regardless. The outdoor ceremony is literally blown up by the raging churning winds and rain. Some folks escape in school buses but we don’t really know the others’ fate. It’s not referred to again. The concern is then finding the eldest son who absented himself from the ceremony to shoot school film for a girl he likes. They’re at “the old paper mill” when a twister strikes sending them plunging down a deep hole that’s filling with rain. Will they be found in time? Take a guess.
It’s all in the sound and fury. There is precious little character development because it’s really just a distraction. Fair enough.
Finally, the leading ladies (Sarah Wayne Callies and Alycia Debnam Carey) have lots of long hair which they refuse to tie back, allowing it to blow in the wind and blind them just because it looks good. I mean, come on. Basic common sense. Helen Hunt didn’t, and neither do these ladies. I find it endlessly irritating.