Over the years, the disaster film has become a sub-genre firmly entrenched within the broader spectrum of blockbuster cinema, a form that is so often a splintered collage of genre shards that act as crude spine to the grand spectacle on display. One only has to look at last year’s San Andreas to see how far this genre has fallen from its heyday. For me personally, the key reason many of these more modern disaster pictures fail is a clear and simple lack…a lack of genuine fear. From forbearers like Godzilla and through the classic cycle of the 70’s star powered event films (The Towering Inferno, Earthquake, The Poseidon Adventure), disaster films were about the horror of facing the impossible, and the unstoppable power of nature itself. Even one of the films that arguably directed modern disaster films in their current momentum, Independence Day, is grounded in the fear of destruction and riddled with horror imagery. This is a cinema of shock and awe…but somewhere along the line, the shock disappeared. Now, it’s not Hollywood who is bringing it back…but Norwegian Roar Uthaug, director of the highly underrated Cold Prey, whose latest film, The Wave, stands as the most impactful and compelling disaster film of recent times.

Inspired by an event that took place in 1934, when a rock slide caused a tsunami to engulf a small Norwegian town, The Wave follows geologist Kristian and his family, as their town, Geiranger, is threatened by a rockslide that could cause a tsunami the likes of which the country has never seen before, and capable of killing all in its path. With others sceptical, it’s up to Kristian to stop the inevitable…and save his family in the process. Filled with genre nods to the disaster films of Hollywood but with a rich core of Scandinavian sensibility in tone, sleek visual composition and structure, The Wave is a beautiful marriage of styles that comes together to create an intense experience that not simply has the visual spectacle to wow audiences, but convincing sense of fear, created through perfectly poised momentum and a willingness to focus on the dark reality of the moment, in the nature of the thoughtless behemoth…and the nature of man.

Having seen The Wave at the London Film Festival this past year, I can wholeheartedly confirm that The Wave is an intelligent take on the blockbuster disaster films of old that rivals anything that Hollywood has produced in terms of scale of disaster, but most crucially, is infused with a crucial realism and honesty that produces both tenderness and stark horror, visually and ideologically with acute resonance.

About The Author

Matthew Hammond is a full time cinephile, specializing in cult, art house and 1980’s cinema. While film is his overwhelming passion, Matthew has been known to enjoy comic books, Sherlock Holmes stories and a good film related T-shirt. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments: mattpaul61@o2.co.uk