It could really happen, the news clips prefacing the movie tell us. Fjords are dangerous places, and if a mountain just up and decides to slip into one, as it does in Geiranger, Norway in Roar Uthaug’s slickly produced Bolgen (aka The Wave), there are gonna be a lotta people running for higher ground.
The Wave is a better than average disaster flick that balks at the over-the-top cartoonishness of its American brethren like 2012 (still one of my favorite comedies) and the recent San Andreas (which I was able to watch entirely in French on a plane from Paris last fall and didn’t need one bit of comprehensible dialogue to know what was happening – ironically, I’m told, which is the exact same experience as watching it in my native English). There’s no Rock here, except for the rock slide that causes the catastrophic lake tsunami, which is rendered with truly spectacular special effects that rival the superior work done in The Impossible.
However, although suspense is built well and slowly until the special effects break loose (which are regulated to a harrowing ten minutes smack dab in the middle of the movie that play out in near real-time), The Wave can’t help but be awash in character clichés. There’s the “am I the only one who sees what is about to happen?” scientist and his hotelier wife, their cute little girl and uselessly angsty teenage son, the hysterical tourist man, the jokey scientist buddies who get trapped in a crevice, and some other people you barely get to know before they get swept away. Some key folks get trapped in a flooded room (ala The Poseidon Adventure and any number of knock-offs) and one emotional scene at the film’s close was ripped beat-for-beat from San Andreas (which I’m sure was ripped from something prior) only the roles were flipped. The Wave was cracker jack stuff up until these lame aftermath moments.
But, hey, it was still a lot of fun overall. The Norwegian scenery is gorgeous. The special effects truly special. And the director utilizes some classic tools to build tension. There’s a great transition at one point when the lights go out in the aforementioned flooded room that leaves the audience in the dark until we realize we are back with another character trapped in a car under the waves. It was crafty enough trickery to almost make you hold your breath. And that’s entertainment.
Written by David H. Schleicher