This does seem to be another year of disaster movie mania. Earlier in the year we got Pompeii which was basically Gladiator meets Titanic on the slopes of Dante’s Peak, and then we had Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, which was about the world’s first disaster story and was kind of dreadful in its own right, but now we have Into the Storm which tops them all in the epic nature carnage category. This is the film Jan de Bont’s Twister wanted to be.
Director Steven Quale decided to go the “found footage” route with this disaster flick and I must say it really makes the scenes much more visceral. What makes this stand out from most movies of that type is that we follow multiple sources; a group of storm chasers, redneck morons, high school kids, and the various security and news footage to flesh it out, but then he occasionally abandons the found footage conceit for moments that would make no sense for a camera to be recording what we are seeing. I am totally okay with that.
The story and I use the term “story” in its broadest sense of the world here, mainly focuses on two groups of people as a massive storm front rages across the poor town of Silverton and that is spawning tornadoes faster than you can say “There’s no place like home.”
The Storm Chasers: Pete (Matt Walsh) is a documentary filmmaker who specializes in tornado footage but it’s been a year since he got any good material and he’s about to lose his funding. He is this film’s Captain Ahab who believes that with his super truck “The Titus” he can film from the inside of a tornado’s eye. Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies) is a meteorologist member of the team and whose main character trait is that she misses her daughter. They are accompanied by a small team of cameramen and drivers whose main jobs are to either be yelled at by Pete, get killed, or both. That the black guy survives to the end of the film earns this movie major points.
The Morris Family: Gary Morris (Richard Armitage) is a widower and dad to two teenage sons. He is also the local school’s vice principal and wound up a bit too tight. Donnie Morris (Max Deacon) is the resentful son who has become estranged from his father since the passing of their mother. Trey Morris (Nathan Kress) is the young son who basically would like everyone to just chill out. Thrown into that mix is Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey) the high school girl that Donnie has a crush on. Note: Disasters are amazing relationship builders.
The film does occasionally follow a couple of moronic rednecks whose apparent sole goal in life is to get a million YouTube hits and make tons of money off of it. That they constantly stand in front of oncoming tornadoes is not surprising.
Now when it comes to tornado action this film does not mess around, it spends just enough time with our main characters so that when the shit does hit the fan we actually care about them. It doesn’t have rival storm chasers in black vans working against our heroes as in some films cough Twister, because when you’re talking Mother Nature’s fury laying waste to all in her path you really don’t need a human villain to spice things up.
As for the film’s special effects, I can’t praise them enough. I found myself holding my breath during many of the sequences where the main characters were either driving toward or fleeing the tornadoes and their destructive power. Wherever our heroes went they found themselves dodging tossed vehicles or various storm-thrown debris, but when the F5 passed through an airport and lifted jumbo jets as if they were Tinker Toys that was incredible to behold.
Now sure some of the dialogue was a bit corny at times and a couple of the characters were a tad bit clichéd, but overall I found myself emotionally moved way beyond what I’d expect from a popcorn disaster flick, and there is a scene where Donnie and Kaitlynn are pretty sure their time is up that is just damn powerful. Kudos to those young actors.
Simply put Into the Storm was an E-ticket thrill ride that should make any fan of the genre incredibly happy. Steven Quale has taken the found footage format and raised it to a whole new level.
Into the Storm (2014)
Director Steven Quale gives fans of disaster movies everything they could want from the genre, good characters facing off against the extreme power of Mother Nature. The cast all put in solid performances and the effects work is top notch.