Mark Reviews Movies

Into the Storm


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Steven Quale

Cast: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Max Deacon, Nathan Kress, Alycia Debnam Carey, Arlen Escarpeta, Jeremy Sumpter, Lee Whittaker, Kyle Davis, Jon Reep, Scott Lawrence

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references)

Running Time: 1:29

Release Date: 8/8/14

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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 8, 2014

We will get to the tornadoes in a moment, so in the meantime, please be patient. Into the Storm features two characters who are nearly impossible to shake. One is an amateur stuntman; the other is his "accomplice and instigator." They are a pair of "idjit" Okies and the movie's alleged comic relief. When we first meet them, the stuntman is preparing to jump an all-terrain vehicle over an above-ground swimming pool, and then one of his buddies sets the water on fire. This is the kind of humor they represent. Also, their names are Donk (Kyle Davis)—yes, Donk—and Reevis (Jon Reep). As expected, they are the dumbest characters in the movie, but—and this is the important thing—they only claim that title by a hair.

As for the runners-up, well, pick almost any other member of this cast of barely-archetypical characters. There's Pete (Matt Walsh), the storm-chaser/documentarian who has spent an entire season without seeing a single tornado, and this is the year he wants to get footage inside the eye of a twister.

He blames his team's meteorologist Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies), whose job seems to consist entirely of watching television weather reports. To be fair, though, she watches those weather reports with the aid of a doctorate.

Pete also has a team of three cameramen, which seems a bit excessive considering that his bulletproof-windowed, armored vehicle also has 24 cameras attached to it. After their introduction, we really only know these cameramen exist because director Steven Quale has opted for a faux-documentary approach to the material. We spot their arms or a glimpse of a camera, and of course, Pete has apparently ordered them to shoot every, damned thing that happens, whether it's tornado-related or not.

One of the cameramen (Jeremy Sumpter) is scared of tornadoes, so of course he will be the one to do the single, stupidest thing we've seen in the movie until that point (It involves a flaming cyclone). That he actually follows it up with an act that is even more nitwitted (It involves chasing a camera being sucked up by the flaming twister) is an accomplishment that almost puts him over Donk and Reevis.

Another cameraman (Arlen Escarpeta) gives the scared one a pep talk, and the third (Lee Whittaker) appears and disappears depending on whether or not the screenplay by John Swetnam remembers that the character exists. For the sake of sanity, it's best to assume that the third guy is one the filming a scene whenever one is inclined to ask, "Who's filming this scene, anyway?" That inclination rises often.

There are more characters, and yes, like the movie, we will get to the tornadoes eventually. Donnie (Max Deacon) is a junior at the local high school where all the twister-related activity inevitability—but slowly—occurs. He's recording video time capsules for the town at the request of his father Gary (Richard Armitage), the vice principal at the school.

Donnie has worked up the courage to speak to his crush Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey), who is also—unsurprisingly—working on a video project to document the chemical hazards at an abandoned paper mill. The two are there when the tornadoes start to hit, while Gary and his other son Trey (Nathan Kress) are busy—you guessed it—filming the high school's graduation ceremony.

Now we have finally come to the storms, and they are quite the pieces of computer-generated spectacle. Here, the multiple-camera, fake-documentary mode of the movie somewhat pays off, too.

In their best moments, the sequences offer claustrophobic scenes of helplessness—such as when a tornado passes over the high school as students and faculty cower in a hallway that becomes a wind tunnel—or a diminishing perspective of the majestic fury of nature—such as characters searching the skies for where a forming vortex will touch the ground. It's not enough, though, for Quale, who lessens the impact of the earthbound shots with faraway ones of the full scale of the tornadoes. These are ostensibly captured by news helicopters that, one would imagine, would never have been in the air in the first place under these circumstances.

Swetnam and Quale know that one storm isn't enough, so we get a series of them, each one increasing in number or size (Allison says that such a thing is not a "freak occurrence," although her vague non-explanation makes us kind of want to see that degree of hers). The characters, who always stare at an incoming twister for too long before seeking safety, stop mattering as much once the storms start to rage, and we can just allow the wind-and-debris show to overtake us (The movie's last-minute attempt to shift to a more thoughtful tone about the aftermath is hypocritical). There's the right kind of dumb—here, the senseless destruction—and the wrong kind—everything surrounding that devastation. The wrong greatly outweighs the right in Into the Storm.

Copyright © 2014 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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