Film review: Mother Nature’s power is unleashed in ‘Into the Storm’

Film review: Mother Nature’s power is unleashed in ‘Into the Storm’
“Into the Storm” pits Mother Nature against people. Photo by Ron Phillips

What the not half bad “Into the Storm” lacks in above-average storytelling and acting, it makes up for in visual turbulence and stylistic behind-the-camera flair.

With climate change and global warming becoming increasingly regular news topics — as if they hadn’t already years ago — I think it’s safe to say we can expect Hollywood to flood our multiplexes with so-called “cli-fi” movies.

For moviegoing audiences, that means the merger between entertainment and the Earth is pretty much inevitable, whether we like it or not.

Regardless of our opinion on the matter, we get to travel “Into the Storm.”

Within a short period of time, the town of Silverton is devastated by an unprecedented tornado onslaught.

Every man, woman and child is at the mercy of these deadly and unpredictable twisters, all the while the worst is preparing to unleash its fury.

Many people take shelter as some search for their missing loved ones, while others pursue the storm in the hope of capturing the wrath of Mother Nature.

What is immediately noticeable about “Into the Storm” is the fact that it is presented in a first-person POV style, courtesy of the cameras carried by several key characters.

This technique places the audience directly in the middle of the onscreen events, producing an immersive effect that makes the apprehension in the atmosphere feel all the more tangible, both before and after the torrential rain, winds, and debris start flying all over the place.

Through these various lenses, the film centers on professional storm chasers with differing ideas on how to handle the erratic crisis; two thrill-seekers bent on becoming Internet celebrities; a teenage boy who deals with not only asking a girl out but also struggling with his strained relationship with his father.

It’s a “day-in-the-life” scenario for these individuals, each one distinguished by a different pair of eyes and a motivation.

And when that creative shooting approach is paired up with one hell of a weather catastrophe that arrives fast and attacks with full force, the end result is massive.

Whoever signed on to be a part of director Steven Quale’s visual effects team should be proud of their efforts.

The CGI obeys one simple rule: the bigger the storm, the bigger the display.

Whether it involves multiple twisters shooting down from the sky or a fire tornado incinerating all in its path, the technical mastery is downright amazing. But it is not until the colossal EF5 tornado appears toward the climax that things get really monstrous, raising the wreckage level several notches higher as the deafening sounds of inclement weather intensify by the minute.

Normally this is where I’d criticize the emphasis placed on spectacle over soul, but, surprisingly, that doesn’t turn out to be the case here.

In fact, the immense visuals and furious sounds are interspersed among the lulls in the chaos in which the quiet character moments have room to breathe, establishing an effective balance between the contrasting elements.

Cast performances are relatively plain, and I wouldn’t expect them to be anything more when the main focus of “Into the Storm” is the tornadoes.

Having said that, the film does show an interest in seeing how different people react in the face of extreme danger, and the actors prove decent enough to ensure the ordinary folks they’re portraying matter.

But while the many personal angles from which “Into the Storm” experiences the tornado crisis are unquestionably eye-catching, the narrative is anything but.

The entire film centers on twisters and the people feeling their rage; there isn’t much story structure to speak of, let alone development.

Considering the 89-minute running time, this is no surprise, though I still think the director’s preference for a basic “here-and-now” plot could’ve been much more substantial.

All’s well that ends well for “Into the Storm,” which, notwithstanding its drawbacks, manages to be a reasonably entertaining disaster thriller.

It’s not my cup of tea, but I’m certain it’ll please anybody who enjoys seeing Mother Nature’s dark side wreak havoc on humanity.

 

MPAA rating: PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references.

Run time: 1 hour and 29 minutes

Playing: In general release

 

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