Genre: Action, Thriller
Directed by: Steven Quale
Starring: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Max Deacon
The pictures that circulated across the news networks last year of the destruction caused by the Moore City Tornado in Oklahoma was a timely reminder of how cataclysmic such cyclones can be. However, if those shocking images have escaped your memory, director Steven Quale, supplied with a CGI system and a wind turbine, is here to callously remind you with Into The Storm; a film that strives to reinvent the disaster flick for a contemporary audience, but ends up feeling like nothing more than destruction porn.
Inevitably, many have compared Into The Storm with Jon de Bont’s 1996 disaster drama Twister, but to do so is a disservice to what was, at the time, an intelligently adventurous summer blockbuster. Though it was the state-of-the-art special effects that caught your attention back then, it was the witty characters and solid story that held it. In comparison, Into The Storm is a decidedly lacklustre affair. Nothing more than a generic tale of survival, set in a small American town that happens to be littered with a host of stereotypical personalities – the lovelorn dork, the school jock, the stupid redneck etc – that ultimately make it hard for you to ever care about the outcome.
Indeed, a more pertinently comparable source to liken the film with is the many hundreds of B movies we generally see adorning the inside of bargain bins and the schedules of the Syfy channel. Both Quale and his screenwriter John Swetnam seem entirely uninterested in the various characters caught up in the film’s events and merely treat them as a group of walking receptacles to dump an exorbitant amount of debris on.
Any arcs built are tiresomely formulaic – the single dad trying to reconnect with his sons, the mother trying to get home to see her daughter – and almost entirely forgotten about, while the dialogue is little more than an amalgamation of shouting and screaming that’s occasionally interspersed with a short but stale scene of clunky and generally unnecessary exposition.
The interests of the filmmakers instead lay wholly with the whirlwinds that are at the epicentre of their film, or moreover in the damage that caused by them. Only when one of the tornados catches fire do we get an extended long shot of one of Quale’s whirling wreckers, for the rest of the time they are monotonously glimpsed at thanks to the bewildering decision of the creative minds to try and reinvent the genre by shooting the whole film using the found-footage format.
The devastating path of destruction left in their wake is what we are left to gawp at. Buildings get flattened and cars are overturned, with Quale exuding an almost gleeful delight as he creates as much havoc as he can. The problem is that you never find yourself caring about the wanton devastation unfolding on the screen thanks to your complete indifference towards those that are affected by it.
Perhaps that’s why Quale and Swetnam try to tie the whole mess up with a coda that actually ends up bordering on the offensive. Shamelessly using the memory of the aftershock caused by the Moore City Tornado last year, the writer and director attempt to pass the whole film off as a powerful personification of human spirit that feels like nothing more than crass capitalization of the horror caused by such events. The chill it sends down your spine, much like the film as a whole, is thoroughly unlikable.