Into The Storm
Director: Steven Quale.
Cast: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Nathan Kress, Max Deacon, Alycia Debnam-Carey.
WHILE discussing possible scientific inaccuracies in the 1996 disaster classic Twister, a high school teacher of mine once told me that tornadoes - much like deities - move in mysterious ways.
He recalled being in the part of America known as Tornado Alley in the wake of a twister and noted that entire houses had been destroyed by the gale-force winds, yet just metres away a little girl's tricycle remained exactly where it had been left, untouched by the tornado.
That story stuck in my head and as a result I'm reluctant to poke holes in the seemingly preposterous things that happen throughout Into The Storm, which makes the weather phenomena of Twister look like a bunch of zephyrs.
But even if we leave aside some of the "what the...?" moments of Into The Storm, there are still some big problems here, most of which relate to the characters, attempts to add extra meaning to proceedings, and the film's "found footage" approach - so basically anything that's not the bits with the giant killer whirlywinds.
Firstly the found footage approach. Early in its production, Into The Storm had the holding title of "Found Footage Tornado Thriller", with the idea being that a seriously dangerous storm could be examined through multiple cameras, all wielded by the people caught up in the middle of the disaster zone.
This would be great, but director Steven Quale (Final Destination 5) doesn't fully commit to the conceit, which was also one of the issues of found footage cop drama End Of Watch. It's really pulls you out of a film when you find your brain unwittingly asking "who is shooting this bit?", as happens in Into The Storm.
A good example is in some of the aerial shots, which we initially assume are coming from a news helicopter but which suddenly lose their network watermark and then make no sense in the context of the "found footage" approach. This is most noticeable during Into The Storm's moneyshot (which is in the trailers, so this isn't a spoiler) where a super-tornado starts throwing 100-ton airliner's around like children's toys, but somehow an in-film and airborne camera is close enough to capture the action. Oh wait, is this one of those seemingly preposterous things I wasn't going to mention? Damn.
Aside from some of the film not feeling like a "found footage" movie, Into The Storm's biggest problem is its characters. In what are thankless roles to start with due to the constant drenching and buffeting they cop, the actors have the added issue of not having much to work with.
Armitage (Thorin from The Hobbit) and Callies (Lori from The Walking Dead) perform admirably considering but it's hard to care about such clichéd non-entities - he's the overworked widower with no time for his sons, she's the workaholic single mum who misses her daughter and doesn't get along with her storm-chasing boss (Walsh).
Basically there's a lot of running around yelling "Look out!" and "Hold on!" as Armitage's Gary searches for his missing son and Callies' Allison hunts the tornadoes for great footage while not dying. There are other characters - too many in fact - and the end result is we don't really care about any of them.
Thankfully the effects are great. There are some real hold-your-breath moments amid the truly impressive visuals - there's no getting around the fact that a "firenado" and a plane-flipping super-twister are both scary as hell.
There's an attempt to graft a "live for the moment 'cos you could be dead soon" epilogue on to it all but it just comes off as laboured and mawkish.
Sadly when Into The Storm isn't blowing you away with its wild winds, it just kind of blows.