I wasn’t really planning on reviewing this, but look at this suave dude.
And I will admit that when I first saw the previews for Into the Storm I said, “We have this movie already, it’s called Twister! It had a flying cow, and the whole airplanes being smashed thing is just trying to top the flying cow.”
However, this did manage to differentiate itself from Twister, and made some clever use of in-universe cameras, and also Richard Armitage spends most of it soaking wet, so… I’ll allow it. For science.
So the basic plot is that there’s a series of once in a lifetime storms converging on the Plains, and Pete (Matt Walsh) is a documentary film maker trying to make the Next Big Tornado documentary. He’s got a small crew with him, including a metorologist, Allison (Sarah Wayne Callis), and he’s built this ridiculous stormchasing car that’s full of Chekov’s toys – a winch, ground anchors that’ll hold up to 170 MPH winds (but we know from the trailers that winds hit 300 mph, so…) and all the cameras ever. The storm hits a high school containing Vice Principle Jerry, a widower with two sons who are also students at the school. Both kids are film-making buffs, so they have cameras everywhere.
So circumstance warrant that everyone is chasing around town trying to find Son #1 who skipped school to help his crush film an application video, while Son #2 stays with his dad, and they meet up with the storm chasers, and then there’s a couple of YouTube idiots trying to make it big. It’s as ridiculous as you expect, and there’s a fire tornado.
So if you’ve, you know, EVER seen a movie before, like, EVER, you’ll see most of the plot coming from about 7 miles away. Chekov’s knife! Chekov’s hole in the floor! Chekov’s lines about Things That Will Be Important Later!
One thing that the movie did well (trust me, you don’t go see this movie about the plot, you go see it for the pretty people and the destruction porn) is that a lot of the shots are from in-universe cameras. Everyone is walking around with a movie camera in their pocket (you are too, probably) and Son #1 is in this abandoned factory with his camera equipment, Son #2 has his handheld, and there’s a one of the documentary crew that you never see (I kept counting noses because I was sure we were missing somebody) that’s integral to the story because he’s the one filming a lot of it. (Luckily they don’t Blair Witch it up with the shaky cam unless the camera has been sucked up by one of the tornados – it’s a conceit, not the reality, thank god).
I grew up in Minnesota, and we had regular bouts of bad weather- there was a stump in our backyard that was from a tree that was knocked down by a tornado before we moved in, and we had the tornado siren test every first Wednesday of the month at 1 pm during the season, and there were at least two times I remember going to the shelter area at school and assuming the position. (We were on the very north end of tornado alley.)
(This is why you will often see me on Twitter being a little blaise about severe weather in Boston, because this is not Midwestern severe weather and it doesn’t really concern me. I’ve been here for 11 years. Though we have had two tornados near Boston in three years. That’s concerning.)
Anyway, I discussed this with my BFF who lived in Kansas and Missouri for most of her life, and we both agreed that the light was wrong, and the dirt was wrong (this took place in Oklahoma, but was filmed in Michigan), and I do not believe that kids who had grown up in Oklahoma wouldn’t know a) what position to assume in the hallway during a tornado and 2) what the freight train sound during a severe thunderstorm meant. Come on. They know what that means. They wouldn’t look around going “oh fuck, what’s that?” They’d duck and cover. We all know that sound. COME ON.
My BFF said that because the light was wrong for that part of the country, it meant she could sit back and enjoy the ride, rather than freak out. I was kind of amused by my Pavlovian response to the tornado siren sound – I felt my adrenline spike, and I knew that it was just the movie. During the drills at school, the siren would go off, and as one, we’d all look out the window, then look at the clock, and if it was 1 pm, we’d all shrug and go back to whatever we were doing. Even the teacher.
Things were a little bit on the nose, like a discussion about how “once in a lifetime” storms now happen about once a year (name drops included Katrina, Sandy, and Joplin). And by studying them, maybe we can know before they hit places like LA or Chicago. The disaster porn was a very “look at all these empty buildings being destroyed” They never mention the number of people who were killed by this super storm, and I think they were hoping we wouldn’t notice that there’s no way a bunch of people didn’t die. Hand waving “Well, we told everyone to take shelter!” is not going to work. (Like, Guardians of the Galaxy did say before the giant starship crashed into a city that they had successfully evacuated the city. That handwave I’ll accept, but this was a noticeable omission.) The giant tornado went over an airport, for fuck’s sake.
So it’s not a GOOD movie. But it was an enjoyable hour and a half (the low point was the preview for Interstellar which I am utterly tired of already), and hey.
Armitage and wet clothes.
I think that’s the important thing here.