Friday, August 8, 2014


Release date (India):
August 8, 2014
Steven Quale

Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Nathan Kress, Max Deacon, Jerry Sumpter, Arlen Escarpeta, Scott Lawrence

Into The Storm is a 90-minute-long unrelenting adrenaline rush. Not much more. Nothing less.

The humans in the film are subordinate to the tornadoes that strike, as is the case with all natural disaster movies. The difference here is that director Steven Quale does not pretend otherwise. Disaster flicks require incredible writing skills to convey genuine involvement in the lives of their characters. Most end up being schmaltzy and/or cliched in the effort. Into The Storm takes an alternative route, which too is not a bad idea: it gives us three primary characters around whom to wrap the twisters, but unlike other films of the genre, it does not for a second claim to be more concerned about them than it is about ensuring that the audience has an awesome special-effects-ridden experience.

And awesome it truly is! Every long shot of towns being uprooted, every medium shot and close-up of those ghastly winds, that Gravity-like uplifting scene in the eye of a storm (“a sight only God has seen”)… awesome is an understatement. You can guess how much fun this film is from the fact that I’ve used that awful word here thrice already, after years of threatening to boycott teenaged friends every time they utter it.

The people in the story are incidental but not insignificant. First up is Garry (Richard Armitage), vice-principal of a high school in the US town of Silverton, which is preparing for the graduation of its senior class. Garry has asked his sons to record on-camera messages from the students passing out, for a time capsule to be opened in 25 years. Trey (Nathan Kress) follows his father’s instructions, while Donnie (Max Deacon) quietly takes off to help his schoolmate and long-time crush Caitlyn (Alycia Debnam-Carey) with an assignment. Then there’s Pete (Matt Walsh), a professional storm chaser travelling around the country with a team, in a tank that can withstand winds up to 170mph, followed by a van that is in effect a meteorological department on the move. Finally, there’s Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies), Pete’s met expert who is missing her little daughter back home.

Into The Storm is a film in the found footage genre. If you’ve seen the Paranormal Activity series (or Dibakar Banerjee’s Love Sex Aur Dhoka and Pavan Kripalani’s Ragini MMS here at home), you know what that means: a film running partly or fully on footage shot by characters in the drama. The idea behind the genre is to conjure up a sense of reality, a feeling that we as viewers have been a part of the filmmaking process along with the person/s – known or unknown – behind the camera. Into The Storm smartly escapes the sometimes-physically-nauseating shakiness of such films though, with the plot cleverly ensuring that the characters operating the equipment are either pros (Pete’s videographers) or accomplished amateurs (Trey and Donnie).

The desire to convey a moral-of-the-story right in the end marginally diminishes Into The Storm. The simplistic nature of the message makes it worse. According to this film, in times of crisis we discover a core of basic human goodness in even the worst people. Perhaps this is true in most cases. Yet it’s naïve to not also acknowledge the existence of pure, unvarnished evil. The healthy youngster who pushes aside an old or pregnant person to escape a stampede is not a fiction. Locals who steal jewellery and cash from corpses at plane crash sites are not a fiction. The truth is that crisis brings out the best in some people and the worst in others.

This brief detour is an unnecessary diversion in a film that otherwise sticks doggedly to being an SFX fiesta. As things stand, it’s a visual spectacle. Brian Tyler’s music stays just right – at no point is it overwhelming. And the lives of Garry, Pete and Allison are given minimalist treatment, which is what makes them so effective. A lesser film might have delivered long-drawn-out back-stories and rounded things off with a mushy Garry-Allison romance; this one chooses to end in an unexpected fashion on that front.

A friend asked as we left the hall: What’s the difference between Into The Storm and Twister (that 1996 film about tornadoes starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton)? Answer: this one has less story and has taken advantage of 18 years of advancements in film technology to deliver even better special effects.

Into The Storm will probably become obsolete as soon as a new twister film with next-generation SFX comes around. For the moment though, the effects are breathtaking, the pace is spot-on and the inexorable tension is mind-blowing. If you are looking for emotional depth, you won’t find much of it here. But just as some folk go to watch Fast and Furious films simply to see fast cars, if your tastes lie in that direction then Into The Storm is worth watching simply for the storm. Believe me, it is (here comes that awful word again) awesome.

Rating (out of five): **3/4

CBFC Rating (India):

Running time:
MPAA Rating (US):
90 minutes
PG-13 (for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references)
Release date in the US:
August 8, 2014

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