Into the Storm is one of those movies that you wonder where it came from. Natural disaster films are so early 2000s and this one feels particularly ancient. Clearly the thinking was that with all the super storms hitting us the time was ripe to pick the genre again, but it really isn’t and Into the Storm isn’t the film to do it in.
While you don’t have to do much to be a competent natural disaster movie there are a few rules. The biggest one is not to actively insult people who have actually been affected by cataclysmic disasters. Into the Storm fails at this, and while it may succeed at a few other things because of that it fails completely.
Into the Storm
Director: Steven Quale
Release Date: August 8, 2014
I feel like more and more often I’m opening reviews by stating that you’ve seen this movie before. I suppose that’s just the name of the game in Hollywood now, but in the case of Into the Storm you’ve really seen this movie before. Taking place in a small Midwest town the film unfolds around Gary (Richard Armitrage) and his two sons Pete (Max Deacon) and Trey (Nathan Kress). Dangerous twisters start to hit the town as a team of documentary filmmakers attempting to film the inside of a twister (you’ve really seen this before) roll into town. Pete (Matt Walsh) is the director and he’s aided by Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies), who is the scientist tracking the storms. As the two groups collide and things start to get really bad stuff happens, but, almost no one dies.
Sorry for the spoilers, but Into the Storm is such a cliche, white washed film that one of its two deaths comes across as so out of place it actually makes it shocking. It isn’t that there needs to be death in a storm movie, but this film almost willfully ignores the fact that people and their homes are being destroyed, instead forcing a truly uncomfortable happy feeling over much of the proceedings as families stick together and everyone forgets the massive amounts of horror that’s occurred around them. It’s a very rainbow colored view of horrifying circumstances.
What makes this truly appalling is that every so often the film actually tries to connect its ludicrous and action oriented storm scenes with the tragic destruction that has recently torn through the Midwest. Each and every time it does this it insults those that actually lived there a little more by completely trivializing what they’ve been through and turning it into action fodder with no emotional impact. There’s a complete disconnect between the true nature of a small town being torn apart and the action film wants to show and by the time the happy ending rolls around it leaves nothing but a bad taste in your mouth.
Disaster movies can be over-the-top, but then they can’t try to connect it too the real world. Barring Into the Storms horrible handling of actual emotions as a ridiculous natural disaster movie it works sometimes. The screenplay is hamfisted and full of every standard you can think of, but when the twisters hit there’s actually some tension that works well. Once the movie stops trying to be about something and simply delivers some storm action it can movie you begrudgingly to the edge of your seat.
That does not, however, make it good in any real way. Tension can be accomplished pretty easily some times and once that tension is gone you’re stuck with a film that delivers almost nothing in the way of interest. The characters act like complete idiots for most of the film — there’s a lot of standing around looking at deadly twisters that are about to kill them. There’s just no reason to like anyone in this movie, and when you’re most enticing screen presence is a funnel of wind, clouds, dirt and flames you have failed at making a movie.
All of this could probably be forgiven if it weren’t for the aforementioned feeling that they’re slapping storm survivors in the face by making a heartless film try to honor them. It’s as if the film is autistic. It understands that there are feelings and ways one should act towards them, but has no idea how to do it so its attempts are both insensitive and disturbing. Into the Storm tries to be more than it should be and fails so dramatically at it that it becomes less.