Into The Storm review

Richard Armitage stars in the wind-battered disaster flick, Into The Storm. Here's Duncan's review of a fun big-screen spectacle...

Back in the 90s we were treated to a glorious revival period for disaster movies that saw a slew of releases waging war against each other for box office supremacy. While the 70s had laid claim to genre classics like The Towering Inferno, Earthquake and The Poseidon Adventure, a couple of decades later and we simultaneously had Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman attempting to fight the threat of giant comets in Armageddon and Deep Impact, Tommy Lee Jones and Pierce Brosnan putting magma fuelled shenanigans in their place with Volcano and Dante’s Peak, with water torture for Sylvester Stallone and er… Morgan Freeman, again, in Daylight and Hard Rain respectively.

Actually, come to think of it, Freeman also popped up for another disastrous turn of events in Chain Reaction in that same period, with his luck then repeating at the start of the millennium with The Sum Of All Fears. Probably best not count on him when it comes to a global crisis then.

The second highest grossing picture in 1996, though, was Jan de Bont’s special effects extravaganza, Twister. Strangely, for a film that was so successful and became so engrained in popular culture that the flying cows became an oft imitated spectacle in film and TV skits (as well as featuring in its own spin-off experience at Universal Studios) there’s been no worthy successor. That was until now, as Into The Storm finally gives the 21st century its own Twister, complete with a similarly compelling cast and a few new visual tricks to entertain a much more CGI savvy and jaded contemporary audience.

Into The Storm is every bit the B-movie delight it promised to be, from its compelling, tight and terrifying opening sequence, to the full on bluster of its finale. There’s a certain comfort, nostalgic or otherwise, to knowing how such a movie will play out and that’s half the fun – you know that the wise scientist won’t be listened to and that the rebellious moment of adolescence will result in life threatening consequences but, just like a theme park attraction, you’re mostly along for the ride.

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At the screening we attended, the film was presented in Dolby Atmos. The auditorium was thus plunged into darkness, and we heard a full on rain storm that was so appropriate and effective, I  assumed it was part of the film, which it turned out not to be. It was just raining.

Thankfully the sound design and effects within Into The Storm were no less convincing. The visual effects were obviously top notch too, as audiences have come to expect from any modern blockbuster, but it was nice to see a film on the big screen that was made to exploit the full size and power of a cinema’s capabilities.

There’s also an element of found footage to the way the film is presented, but director Steven Quale better describes it as a ‘first person narrative approach’ which chooses a more documentary style of filming, avoiding the usual pitfalls of shaky cam (known to induce vomiting in many people). And since even phones now have HD cameras built in, it results in the whole film feeling polished, allowing all the weather-based carnage to be shown with crystal clarity.

For a film that’s focused on character based drama at the centre of the storm, the message might not be subtle regarding how much of everyday life is now documented due to us all having the facility to film and photograph in our pockets, but it’s no less worrying as people throw themselves into harm’s way just to garner more attention, or YouTube hits. It also taps into the notion that life should really be lived, rather than recorded, as so much that happens now is witnessed though the eye of a lens rather than being experienced and savoured.

Holding the emotional core of the film together are some fine performances, with a cast that includes The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies as the ‘I frickin’ told you so!’ scientist who’s constantly at loggerheads with her selfish asshole boss, played by Veep’s Matt Walsh and local vice-principal and father of two, Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield minus his beard, which is an immediate cause for concern).

While Callies is a dab hand at playing beleaguered mothers in apocalyptic circumstances (there’s even a zombie apocalypse quip by a comic relief redneck at one point) and sells the escalating disaster with aplomb, I found it a shame that Armitage plays an everyday teacher rather than an action hero in waiting, as it means he’s a little too stern and po-faced throughout. But that’s mostly  a personal bias on account of being such sucker for disaster movie heroes.

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From a critical standpoint, the B-movie dynamics that contain Into The Storm mean that its character archetypes and melodramatic plot points might seem a little hackneyed, but that suits expectations. And after waiting with baited breath for everything to go tornado shaped – like an episode of Casualty on steroids – when the inevitable happens, it does so with aplomb, fire-nados and all.

Don’t go expecting a game-changer, but for a night’s entertainment on the big screen, Into The Storm is a decent, fun, bombastic, blockbuster ride. Just make sure you see it in the biggest, loudest theatre – and don’t forget to pack a raincoat.

Into The Storm is out in UK cinemas on the 22nd August.

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3 out of 5