The Fury of the Fjord (Film Review: “The Wave”)

The Wave transforms scientific probability data into a naturalistic nightmare as only Nordic Cinema could imagine.

SnapShot Plot

In the archival footage which opens the picture, we learn that Norway is a rock-slide prone area in which, over the past century, several massive slides have triggered giant, deadly tsunamis which in turn wreaked havoc and destruction to countless lives. The film’s message is clear: it’s only a matter of When, not If, that the next big one will hit.

Set in the real-life picturesque fjord community of Geiranger (check out the director’s comments below), the story centers around Kristian, a Norwegian geologist (wrenchingly played by Kristoffer Jones), his wife, teenage son and young daughter as they prepare to move away, for Kristian’s new job at an oil company. On his last day he bids farewell to his fellow geologists who tease him about having been such a stickler for procedure and accuracy, giving the impression that their monitoring station hasn’t had cause for alarm in a very long time. Kristian’s sensible wife Idun (in a strong, heartfelt performance by Ane Dahl Torp) is a front desk manager at the tourist hotel in town, right at the water’s edge. While Idun finishes out her last day on the job, Kristian is supposed to leave on the ferry with the kids, until the unsettling feelings he’s had about the latest sensor data from the mountain coalesce in his head, and he’s convinced something terrible may be about to happen.

And when it does, both Kristian and Idun know that the town will only have 10 minutes until the massive 300-ft tidal wave will make contact, destroying everything and everyone in its path.


Parting Shot

The Wave is considered Norway’s first mainstream disaster movie, and it has set the bar unbelievably high for others to follow in its wake (pun intended).  Leave it to the Nordic mindset to imagine such widespread destruction and terror yet still manages to convey the majestic beauty of Nature and the quiet dignity of Humanity.

The movie excels on every level, from the suspenseful editing by Christian Siebenherz to John Christian Rosenlund’s atmospheric cinematography. It’s a rare disaster movie that so gently establishes the characters in their world that by the time the real action takes place, you realize you’ve been on the edge of your seat for 40 minutes, dying of suspense.

Directed by relative newcomer, Roar Uthaug, who said about the making of The Wave: “This [the tsunami] will actually happen there one day. There is this crack in the mountainside . . .that keeps expanding each year and at some point it will cause a huge rock slide into the fjord and they will have ten minutes before the wave reaches Geiranger. So we wanted to stay true to what geologists think will be the facts one day. And, of course, as a bonus it is one of the most beautiful places in Norway, so I thought the contrast between the spectacular nature and the destructive forces that it can cause made for some powerful images.”

The Wave is a masterful disaster film, showing American audiences that this genre can be elevated beyond stock characters, adrenaline laced editing and exaggerated CGI effects. Indeed, there are some quiet moments in the film where you can actually hear your own heartbeat before realizing it’s because you’re holding your breath in suspense and emotion. And because all the actors performed their own stunts (Kristoffer Joner trained with free-diving instructors to be able to hold his breath underwater for 3 minutes), the verisimilitude of the scenes was enhanced, thereby upping the emotional stakes for the audience.

Uthaug’s upcoming project is helming the Tomb Raider reboot film, with Swedish uber-star, Alicia Vikander reprising the role of Lara Croft (so memorably played by Angelina Jolie.) If he brings half the heart and mind of The Wave to the Tomb Raider franchise, Norma’s Streaming Picks may have to make an exception to the no-super-hero-movie rule when it’s available to stream! Now how’s that for holding your breath?

The Wave is presently streaming on Netflix.

Audio Note: Check your audio settings to screen the film with English sub-titles; the English-language dubbing is laughable and will ruin your experience of this film.


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