In the past decade Americans have discovered the riches to be found in contemporary Scandinavian cinema, including horror films, thrillers, mysteries, and black comedies. Now comes something entirely different: a Norwegian disaster movie that takes its blueprint from Hollywood.
That’s not to discredit The Wave. It’s very well done, and the visual effects are properly spectacular, but it takes all its story beats from mainstream movies we’ve seen many times before.
The hero (Kristoffer Joner, who recently appeared in The Revenant) is a geologist who’s been studying the shifts and movements in a mountainous area of Norway where a rockslide is inevitable, and the tsunami it will generate in the fjord below will certainly cause a catastrophe. He has been lured away from his job (or rather, his obsession) to the big city and is in the process of moving with his wife and two children when something he senses impels him to turn back. This means he is separated from his family, and if you’ve seen any disaster movies, you know what happens next.
All the ingredients are here for potent drama: suspense, adversity, trying to beat the odds, and summoning courage when all seems lost. Director Roar Uthaug and writers John Kåre Raake, Harald Rosenløw-Eeg haven’t missed a trick.
The Wave is reasonably credible, and not as preposterous as San Andreas, so while it’s eminently watchable I can’t say it has anything new to offer. If you’re curious to see how another country tackles a Hollywood staple—or how good visual effects have become, worldwide—then you might want to give it a try.