By Chaz Lipp
With the majority of its 89 minutes devoted to intense tornado sequences, Into the Storm arrives as a perfectly functional, late-summer time killer. If you’re behind on summer movies this season, by all means get caught up on superior fare like Guardians of the Galaxy. But if you want a big slice of brainless entertainment, Into the Storm provides a decent, if immediately forgettable, fix. The “drama” amongst an ensemble of truly uninspired characters provides little of interest, but once it gets going, director Steven Quale and a team of talented F/X techs take us on a pretty wild ride.
In this quasi-found footage thriller (most of the footage is shot by a variety of characters making a variety of documentaries), an unprecedented storm front hits a small, Midwestern town. Documentarian Pete (Matt Walsh) and meteorologist Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies) have been trying to sustain a direct tornado hit for the last year (their armored vehicle, called Titus, is essentially a tank that can supposedly withstand 300 mph winds). High school administrator Gary (Richard Armitage) and his sons Donnie (Max Deacon) and Trey (Nathan Kress) are preparing to videotape the big graduation ceremony. Hillbillies Reevis (Jon Reep) and Donk (Kyle Davis) are wannabe viral video stars who film themselves doing boneheaded stunts. All are caught up in the onslaught of tornadic activity that strikes their town.
Seriously, that’s about it. John Swetnam’s dull screenplay makes Twister look like a snooty art-house film. It’s almost as if the filmmakers’ primary rule was to keep their characters from saying anything remotely interesting or even funny. Without the ace special effects and deafening surround sound, this is sub-Syfy channel drivel. But luckily those effects put at the center of several exciting tornado touchdowns, rocking us around and basically giving us our money’s worth. We see a high school get torn apart, a thin twister suck up flames from a burning gas station, multiple funnels dancing around our group of intrepid heroes, and finally a massive EF-5 – perhaps the biggest tornado in history. In other words, every cool thing that we caught ten-second glimpses of in the trailer, only greatly expanded.
The cast members are just cashing checks. Matt Walsh is hilarious on HBO’s Veep, but only echoes of his acerbic persona are seen in Pete. Sarah Wayne Callies was terrific on AMC’s The Walking Dead and while she doesn’t embarrass herself here, she leaves little impression. But the action sequences are why anyone will see Into the Storm and they are, without exception, excitingly staged.
Images: Warner Bros./New Line