Director: Steven Quale
Cast: Richard Armitage, Jeremy Sumpter, Sarah Wayne Callies, Nathan Kress, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Max Deacon, Arlen Escarpeta, Matt Walsh
RunTime: 1 hr 28 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Intense Sequences)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Official Website: http://intothestormmovie.com
Opening Day: 7 August 2014
Synopsis: In the span of a single day, the town of Silverton is ravaged by an unprecedented onslaught of tornadoes. The entire town is at the mercy of the erratic and deadly cyclones, even as storm trackers predict the worst is yet to come. Most people seek shelter, while others run towards the vortex, testing how far a storm chaser will go for that once-in-a-lifetime shot. Told through the eyes and lenses of professional storm chasers, thrill-seeking amateurs, and courageous townspeople, "Into the Storm" throws you directly into the eye of the storm to experience Mother Nature at her most extreme.
You should know exactly what to expect going into a movie like ‘Into the Storm’, and if you set your expectations just right, then Steven Quale’s found-footage disaster movie won’t disappoint. Yes, at the heart of every such film are cutting-edge visual effects to bring the audience into the eye of the storm (pun intended), ordinary characters turned heroes under the circumstances, and some truly gripping sequences to have us at the edge of our seats. To expect anything more would simply be exceeding the grasp of such a genre picture, and Quale’s film delivers exactly on these three counts.
It’s no secret that the Midwest has been of late bearing the brunt of severe weather phenomenon in recent years, attributed by most weather scientists to be the result of global warming. The fictional town of Silverton is based on such real-life mid-Western towns, which in the span of a single day finds himself at the centre of two colliding storm systems that spark off a series of devastating tornadoes in and around the town. In a word, the CG-rendered twisters and the destruction that they unfold are astounding, brought to life by no less than Weta Digital and under close supervision by Quale himself, a second-unit director on James Cameron's ‘Avatar’ who is no stranger to such special effects-driven pictures.
Among the more impressive shots are one in which a tornado hits a petrol station and catches fire all the way up into the sky, and yet another where a mega-tornado sweeps up a tank-like truck and takes it on a tour into and within itself before dropping it like a mega-ton bomb. There is no doubt at any point of time of the scale of the devastation which these twisters can exact or of their immense force and might which no object or structure can withstand. Like we said, the effects work here is top-shelf, complemented by equally breathtaking sound effects that makes for one of the best Dolby Atmos experiences we’ve had.
Amidst the melee are three groups of individuals whose fates will converge over the course of the day. The least interesting of all is a stoner duo who play like amateur Jackass-es, uploading to Youtube their foolish stunts of heading into - instead of away from - the storm. More compelling is that of a father (Richard Armitage) racing against his time with his younger son (Nathan Kress) to save his older son (Max Deacon) and his squeeze (Alycia Debnam Carey) trapped in an old factory at the outskirts of town. And rounding it off is the leader of a documentary team (Matt Walsh) consisting also of Sarah Wayne Callies’ meteorologist (you’ll recognise her from TV’s ‘The Walking Dead’) who is preoccupied with getting up close in order to get exclusive footage to hit the payload with the broadcast stations.
The characterisation is barely enough to put a human face to the proceedings, but the actors manage to sell their thinly written roles just fine. Armitage is just as serious as he looks as the leader of the dwarfs in ‘The Hobbit’, but his anxiety will be keenly shared by anyone who is a parent. Walsh’s moral dilemma is nicely played with Callies, the latter of whom reminds him of something known as conscience in his blinded pursuit of getting the best footage especially when he prizes that over saving human lives. There is scarcely much plot here given the timespan over which the movie unfolds, but you’ll hardly notice that once the effects take centrestage.
Besides establishing the shots, Quale also proves that he knows his way around building a thrilling sequence. There are many of these, which typically start with the sudden appearance of a twister or later on, several of them at the same time, that change direction just as unpredictably. And if it seems counter-intuitive how the found-footage format can properly convey the magnitude of the tornados or of their destructive power, you’ll be relieved to note that Quale puts a bird into the sky - a helicopter to be more exact - in order to switch to the significant wide shot in between the many intimate shots which bring the viewer up close and personal with the twister/s.
Yes, ‘Into the Storm’ may sound like a total B-movie, and unbefitting of a summer release or perhaps anything more than a premiere in the goggle box, but Quale embraces the B-movie premise wholeheartedly and delivers the kind of thrills best appreciated on a big screen with a robust sound system. Comparisons with ‘Twister’ are inevitable, and while this probably won’t win the same appeal, it is a perfectly acceptable disaster movie in its own right, so set your expectations straight and you’ll enjoy it just nice.
(Delivers exactly what you would expect of a disaster movie - breathtaking visuals, heart-stopping sequences and just enough characterisation to make it work)
Review by Gabriel Chong