March 22, 2016

VOD Release: The Wave (2016)

"Hollywood take note: This is how disaster movies are done."
(aka Bølgen.)
Release Date: March 4th.
Country: Norway.
Rating: R.
Written by: John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg.
Directed by: Roar Uthaug.
Starring: Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torpe, and Fridtjov Såheim.

We're absolute suckers for a good disaster movie around here. Movies like San Andreas, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact, Twister, etc... are crazy enjoyable in their spectacle. Now, they may not be the best movies, and we could certainly rip them apart as far as plot and characterization go, but there's just something about a big, destructive disaster set piece that makes us smile.

That said, while The Wave may be a smaller disaster movie, it packed every bit as much of a punch as it's bigger-scale Hollywood brethren do, and to be honest, was a better overall experience that a vast majority of them.

The one rub on this movie, especially for potential U.S. viewers, is that it's a Norwegian film, which means that subtitles will be required for those who want to watch it, and don't speak the language. I'm so used to subtitles at this point that I use them when I watch English language movies and TV shows, but there are plenty of people out there who view subtitles as a nuisance, and just won't watch a subbed movie. While people all over the world watch American movies with subtitles all the time, here in the U.S., getting people to watch a subtitled movie is a harder sell for some reason.

I urge you to put aside your fears and jump on the subtitle bandwagon though, as there really is a world full of fantastic film out there waiting to be discovered by we of the English speaking audiences, if we'd just give them a chance. Movies like The Wave.

Nestled at the foot of the beautiful mountain Akerneset, Geiranger is a lovely little Norwegian town to raise a family in. Geologist Kristian and his family have lived there for years, and even though they're about to move to the big city so that dad can work at a more prestigious job, none of them really want to leave. Especially dad. He's worked at the early warning center in Geiranger for years, and he's having a tough time letting go of his work.

You see, the massive Akerneset is a mountain that could collapse at any time, the results of which would theoretically send an 80-meter tall tsunami racing towards the small little hamlet of Geiranger, which would effectively kill most of the people in its path. So understandably, Kristian doesn't want to leave his job at the early warning center, because its important. He and his family are all packed up and ready to go though, despite their bittersweet feelings about leaving.

And then the mountain shifts, there's a landslide, and the warning siren sounds.

With mom and son Sondre deciding to spend their last night in Geiranger at a hotel (not as seedy as it sounds), and Kristian and daughter Julia opting for one more night at their beloved home, the family is separated when disaster strikes, and Kristian must race against time to somehow save them all from what is coming.

Heart-quickening insanity ensues.

The Wave was the highest grossing film at the Norwegian Box Office in 2015, and it's easy to see why: it's exciting, it's intense, and most important of all, it's emotionally engaging. I can't remember the last time that we saw a disaster movie that offered such a rich, genuine story to go along with its impressive and terrifying disaster scenes (which are very impressive), especially given that this movie was made for around $6 million U.S. dollars.

It makes me wonder how Hollywood can constantly release big, bloated action flicks that cost $100-$200 million, and yet the always seem to lack substance. Heart, even.

This is a technically gorgeous movie, its visuals looking like something that a movie of a smaller budget like this shouldn't be able to afford. It doesn't hurt that the Norwegian landscape is so breathtakingly beautiful, but the way that they captured it on film was extra impressive.

The one thing that sets The Wave apart from so many other disaster movies is that it takes time to develop its characters. In my experience, many foreign films do an excellent job of establishing their characters, and they give their audiences time to get to know them. We cared about the family in this movie, and when things got bad and they were all in danger, the tension we felt for them was genuine.

We're not familiar with a lot of the actors in this movie, because they've mainly starred in Scandinavian projects that we just don't have access to, but we can say that Kristoffer Joner is a hell of an actor. We've seen him in movies like Naboer (review HERE), Hidden (review HERE), and Red Snow: Red vs.Dead (review HERE), and he's been great in all of them. In The Wave, he pulled the emotion right out of us playing the father who is trying to save his family, and we really liked seeing him play the hero for a change. If Norway has their own movie awards, I have to imagine that he'd get a nod for his work here. He was that good.

Everyone else did a solid job here as well, from those who played the main characters, all the way down to the folks in the supporting roles. It was especially nice to see Fridtjov Såheim (from the awesome show, Lillehammer) play dramatic in this one, even if his role was a bit of a smaller one.

When the mountain finally collapses, the entire tsunami sequence was just phenomenal.

The Wave is easily one  of the best disaster movies that we've ever seen. It's exciting, intense, earnest, and its characters felt real. It's an extremely well-constructed movie that Hollywood could really learn a lesson (or ten) from when it comes to how to do a "big" movie in a very small, effective way.

Rent it, and enjoy.


The Wave is available now on VOD.

Norwegian beauty Ane Dahl Torpe is in this.


  1. Hmm. This is still playing on my area alongside "Allegiant" and "The VVitch." I might just go see this, too. Thanks for the review.

  2. Call me old fashioned, but the toilet paper in that last photo is a bit of a mood-killer!

    Those wacky Scandanavians: what DON'T they have sex with?

    That aside, this sounds like a movie I'll follow up.

    1. Um, huh???

      Whats the toilet paper have to do with sex? She is going to the bathroom. It's just supposed to be quirky.

    2. Ok Mike - I stand corrected. I guess being an avid reader allows me to enjoy subtitled movies more than most. Reading the subtitles doesn't take away from the movie for me. And if the movie is done right it shouldn't take away for anyone.
      Dubbed movies are worse to me because they get voice actors who don't know what they're doing.
      My first time writing a comment and I get blasted for expressing an opinion. Still love the site but won't be commenting again.

  3. Americans don't watch subtitled movies because they're too lazy to read. It's a statement on our U.S. Educational system I think. It's an 'instant gratification' culture now. It's sad to think how many people miss out on great shows like the French show 'The Returned' and Asian films like 'Red Cliff'. Thanks for bringing to light films that we may have missed and appreciated.

    1. Wrong, they dont watch because in action and horror films, its hard to read and watch at the same time. If its some drama, than fine. I would watch a dubbed movie over a subbed if I had a choice. If I didn't I would still watch the movie or show, but it's a huge distraction. You think the filmmakers were thinking about subtitle placement when they made a million dollar effects shot?

  4. My wife is a huge disaster movie fan, so we'll certainly be seeing this one in the not too distant future.

    BTW, have you guys seen/reviewed the Korean film "The Tower?" Another foreign disaster film that's a very worthwhile watch.

  5. Loved this film!!!