Catching ‘The Wave’ From Norway

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.


Kristoffer Joner-1-680

Courtesy of Magnolia

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.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024