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Into the Storm (2014)
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // August 8, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
The big disaster flicks haven't been very popular as of recent. With massive storms having killed many people around the world, perhaps the idea is simply too personal to see on the silver screen for some. Final Destination 5 director Steven Quale and Step Up All In writer John Swetnam have teamed up for this summer's Into the Storm, which puts Mother Nature on display in the biggest way possible. By following storm chasers, it allows us to get a closer look at the insane things that a weather system is capable of. While not every point is entirely accurate, the film seeks to draw tension and awe from this massive weather system that will destroy anything in its path. Like a tornado, Into the Storm is a chaotic mess.
After a massive storm system reaches the town of Silverton, a few different groups of people are forced to find a way to help one another survive. Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies) and Pete (Matt Walsh) are storm trackers, who are looking for a huge tornado to feature in a new documentary. A couple of thrill seekers decide to face the storm head-on in the attempt to get rich on the Internet. Meanwhile, a man named Gary (Richard Armitage) must travel across town in order to ensure that his family is safe once again.
Into the Storm begins by pushing us into the very small amount of character development that one can find here. After all, writer John Swetnam wants us to actually care for these groups of characters, right? Well, the only worthwhile character is Allison, as she has true emotional stakes that we actually care about. She is primarily fighting to survive for her young daughter, who is temporarily staying down south with Allison's parents while she storm chases. The remainder of the characters are incredibly difficult to connect with, making for a group of roles that we couldn't possibly care less about. The screenplay follows every stereotypical character beat possible, as it struggles to make them easier to connect with. It primarily does this by trying to incorporate as much side drama as possible, immediately causing the picture to feel overstuffed. Swetnam makes the attempt to push the cheesy theme of living life to its fullest and knowing that any day could be your last. This is primarily expressed through a monologue that will surely receive more eye rolls than tears. Yet, the worst of the attention grabbers is the use of the two thrill seekers, who somehow managed to get a fair amount of screen time. They don't fit into the overall story arc, as sighs will be in abundance during each and every one of their scenes.
The film wishes to take these unlikely characters and group them together in a survival situation. Very little of it actually works, as audiences will simply be anticipating the next tornado sequence. This is where director Steven Quale has his moment to shine, as he crafts rather tense disaster sequences that keep our eyes glued to the screen. Perhaps the most exciting of these involves a mostly deserted city street setting that will have you immersed in the action. Unfortunately,this doesn't span through all of these scenes, as they continue to get more over-the-top as time continues. It's as if Quale is competing with himself in making the most insane tornado, and we end up with one of these weather systems getting caught on fire. While it looks great in the trailer, it really feels ridiculous when placed into the picture. At least it's never boring.
Perhaps one of the film's biggest problems is how it handles its perspective on Mother Nature's weather systems. While tornadoes are incredibly dangerous, nobody can deny how incredibly intriguing these systems are. The screenplay constantly tries to bring comedic relief with the use of characters such as the two thrill seekers, but then it wants us to once again be in awe of how truly incredible these systems can be. This tone inconsistency makes for an uneven picture that fails to take a stance on its central concept. Into the Storm is a mess of conflicting ideas, and it never manages to find its footing. With a group of likable characters and a sense of tone, this could have been an intriguing disaster feature. The tornadoes themselves can be pretty intense, but everything else is so generic.
There's a severe lack of star power, as Quale's cast often makes this feel similar to a SyFy Channel Original. Then again, what should we expect from a screenplay with wooden character? Wooden performances. Unsurprisingly, Sarah Wayne Callies' performance as Allison is the strongest one here. She manages to bring a tiny bit of humanity to the character, which is lacking in every other role. Richard Armitage is believable enough as Gary, although Max Deacon and Nathan Kress make for some cringe-worthy "emotional" sequences. When things are supposed to be a bit tragic, they make them feel so incredibly forced. What was already contrived was made even more so by cheesy performances.
While so much of Into the Storm is tacky, the visuals aren't. Director Steven Quale has made a visually stunning picture that will surely keep audiences invested. Each tornado is filmed in such a marvelous way, that it truly makes for some tense moments. The audio simply makes the experience even better, as the clarity within the chaotic storm is unreal. Unfortunately, a lot of this is filmed in the "found footage" style, making for some truly nauseating movements. While some of it makes sense, as we're following a group of storm chasers, there's way too much of it. Regardless of this, Quale successfully brings the storm sequences to the big screen in an attention-grabbing way.
Nobody was expecting a genuinely well-crafted picture from Into the Storm, but it makes far too many unforgivable mistakes. Putting the nonsensical characters aside, the tone is completely inconsistent. It isn't sure how it wants us to feel, so it continues to change its stance. When there isn't a tornado to survive through, the audience must endure some terribly contrived dialogue and stereotypical plot and character beats. While the tornado scenes are fairly entertaining, the desired level of excitement is rarely maintained. Into the Storm is closer to Sharknado than it is Twister. Skip it.