A quick review of The Wave

Adel Gabot



This Norwegian big-budget film from last year is actually decent.

I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it has heaps of Hollywood cliches, but the stunning cinematography, excellent score, believable effects and decent acting made for a very absorbing couple of hours. Normally, I’m not accustomed to watching subtitled foreign disaster movies, but The Wave (Bolgen in the original Norwegian) is a pretty damn decent film.

You don’t usually associate pleasant mountain ranges with tsunamis, but that’s the main conceit of this film. It’s set in an idyllic, tourist-friendly Norwegian fjord called Gerainger up in the mountain pass of Akneset, where we meet geologist Kristian Elkjord (played by Kristoffer Joner, who looks like a rich man’s version of a comfortably rumpled Norman Reedus) and his family.

Kristian works for the government monitoring the geologic goings-on in the area, but has recently been hired by a private oil company out of town and is in the process of moving out to the city with his family and leave all this behind. On his last day at work, he discovers some curious geologic activity that tells him something disastrous is about to happen, but he can’t really do anything about it since he doesn’t work there anymore.

And that disaster does happen. That evening, a gigantic landslide happens happens high up in the mountains, and sends the waters of the fjord rushing towards Gerainger in an 80-meter tsunami. The entire community, including a nice hotel where Kristian’s wife incidentally works, is wiped out, and those who aren’t quick enough to get to higher ground are goners.

You’d be totally horrified by the terrible spectacle of an entire mountainside crumbling and falling into the waters below and sending a gargantuan wave into town if the effects weren’t so pretty at the same time. The scenes of a peaceful mountain range ruined by a huge, roiling wall of water rushing down below is, in a word, spectacular.


This catastrophe happens about two-thirds of the way into the movie, which is kind of surprising: the big event happens a bit early! In a disaster film, that’s unheard of!

The first two-thirds of the film were setup and preamble to this event, and the final third is the story of how Kristian and his family survive that event—which should be anticlimactic and much too prolonged for it to work at all, but remember, we aren’t watching a typical Hollywood disaster movie. It does work, and all for the better.

Sure, it gets pretty melodramatic towards the end (and I’m not about to spoil it for you, dear reader), but on the whole, it works for the film. I won’t go into specifics, but I don’t know if it’s the culture or the fact that it’s a tsunami happening high up in the mountains of Norway or what, but whatever it is, it works.

Assuming you don’t speak Norwegian, if you’re not beneath taking the trouble to read the English subtitles, I think you’re going to be pretty entertained by The Wave.

7 out of 10 stars.

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