“Here is a disaster film that actually has a method to its madness and the wondrous feature of realism under its belt, which can be just as limitless as unrealistic action, any day.”

 

 

by Steve Pulaski

I’m the first to get nervous when I hear about severe thunderstorms being on the radar and the possibility of tornadoes touching down in my area. Living in the Midwest all of my life, I have been exposed to some of the strangest storms, some that shook the house, knocked the power out for days at a time, or ones that have even had the capacity to take limbs right off the trees in my yard before my eyes. I consistently fret over storms for the precise reason many don’t even bat an eye at them – I can’t control them. I can’t control the magnitude or damaging impacts of a storm, and because of that, I’m incredibly fearful of them and their abilities.

I hope I never live to witness a storm like the one portrayed in Steven Quale’s Into the Storm which makes for a rousing good time at the theater and a pleasant walk down the kind of disaster films that were ever-so prevalent in the eighties and nineties. The film shows an incredibly large, devastating storm of biblical proportions, bringing in numerous large tornadoes, some of them even becoming “fire tornadoes” later on, and shows them being captured from three different perspectives.

Into the Storm
Directed by
Steven Quale
Cast
Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh
Release Date
8 August 2014
Steve’s Grade: A-

The first, and most prominent, perspective is through a documentary crew, led by Pete (Matt Walsh), a career storm-chaser, who acts as a poor-man’s Burt Gummer. Pete hasn’t caught so much as a severe thunderstorm after one year of filming, always being at the wrong place at the wrong time. His crew is several younger storm-enthusiasts, some there to capture heart-pounding footage, others there to evaluate and analyze storms and their magnitude, which is the job of Allison (The Walking Dead‘s Sarah Wayne Callies). The second perspective is through a father (Richard Armitage) and his two sons, one of them Donnie (Max Deacon), who is trying to get close to his crush Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam-Carey) while skipping the high school’s commencement ceremony he should be filming, and the younger child Trey (iCarly‘s Nathan Kress), who gets stuck filming the commencement ceremony. The third and final is more for kicks and giggles, which are two rowdy hillbillies named Donk and Reevis (Kyle Davis and Jon Reep), who hightail storms in their pickup truck as the Twista Hunterz in the midst of doing crazy stunts on their bikes to “get rich” and gain hits on YouTube.


“Into the Storm” creates one of the most torrential downpours and catastrophic storms of this new decade on film. In what could be a missed opportunity, lost in a sea of special effects and high-octane action sequences with no rhyme or reason, Quale uses a plethora of absorbing wide-shots that provide us with an incredible sense of time and place during the storm, which is something we truly need. Imagine the remake of “Poseidon” with the strength and audacity in the directorial department of “The Perfect Storm,” creating a product along the lines of the latter film. Even better is when Quale takes seemingly indistinguishable arrays of chaos and makes them digestible and easy to follow in one of the best displays of action-directing of the year alongside Jaume Collet-Serra’s superb work in Non-Stop. One particular shot of true artistic prose occurs when Quale creates a scene inside “the eye” of the largest tornado in the film. Without giving away the specific scene, let’s just say, it’s one of the best, most beautifully filmed scenes I’ve seen all year.

Quale is only helped by John Swetnam’s writing, which illustrates several different perspectives and characters through a lens of simultaneous intensity and humanity, another thing Into the Storm needed to make it a success. While most of our time is spent with the storm-chasing crew, as it should be, intimate scenes between Donnie and Kaitlyn take place when they think all is lost for them, at least attempting at a solid, sustainable emotional connection between characters. Not to mention, Swetnam gives each character at least enough time to say their points and address themselves as more than pawns in a larger action movie that will eventually engulf them in expensive special effects. We’re not coming here for a character study, after all (though it would be nice), but we are surprisingly greeted with some well-written characters, which only makes the experience that much better.

Then there are the special effects, which just steal the scenes more than any character in the film could. Breathtaking shots of disastrous storms, so realistically captured and executed, achieve Quale’s greatest goal when making the film, which was to give people a realistic look at a tornado or a destructive storm without them being in any danger necessary to witness one. With that idea and directorial thesis in mind, Quale constructs an experience on-par with the one he created with Final Destination 5 – a film bent heavily on realism with no time for outlandish sequences. Even a scene showing the destruction at an airport could’ve been laughable if handled in an unbelievable light, but captured with Quale’s intensity and the film’s realistic special effects, it winds up a daunting and terrifying shot. While the magnitude of a single storm bearing multiple tornadoes of this torrential capacity is far-fetched, if it did happen, we could use “Into the Storm” as our playbook for survival.

Films like Into the Storm are few and far between, with the quality of films like Into the Storm being even rarer. Here is a disaster film that actually has a method to its madness and the wondrous feature of realism under its belt, which can be just as limitless as unrealistic action, any day. The film is like Sharknado for those who want to watch a disaster film without feeling like they’re being played or insulted.