If you interview the people of Pompeii about whether they’re concerned re the volcano that blew up there a couple of thousand years ago, killing everyone, they tend to respond with “Well, the weather is really nice here.” Or so documentaries on Pompeii would have me believe. The people of the city of Geiranger, Norway, don’t really have that excuse, although it cannot be denied that this little fjord is absolutely gorgeous.
This is a real place, and the threat to it is real. In 1905—and again in 1936—a chunk of a nearby mountain fell into the ocean, creating a tsunami. Unlike earthquake caused tsunamis that travel across the sea for hours, these tsunamis take about 10 minutes—and the movie rather dramatically makes this a precise ten minutes which is a little unlikely—to hit the shore, and are big enough to wipe the town off the map.
As such, they have a warning system, sort of.
In classic disaster-movie fashion, our hero Kristian—one day away from moving to the big city for an oil job—spots an anomaly in the measuring devices used on the mountain, and goes from being obsessed (his usual mode) to panicky, getting him in hot water with his ridiculously beautiful wife Idun and his diffident teen son, Sondre. Fortunately, his little girl still loves him, and he ends up crashing with her in his empty old house while Idun and Sondre stay at local hotel (sea level: 1m, the captions ominously inform us).
Well, it turns out he’s completely wrong and he moves to the big city the next day.
Ha! As if.
Naturally, that night—his warnings have at least encouraged his old team to take serious enough to do a round-the-clock-watch—the mountain collapses and the entire town of Gerainger must find its way up to 85m or higher, if they want to survive. In the next ten minutes. (Which, really, isn’t nearly enough time. A good disaster movie needs a little more lead. But, in this case, factual.)
What follows is a suspenseful (and occasionally horrific) set of events that test the various characters’ mettle. In true disaster/horror movie style, anyone can die at any time, and surviving the event doesn’t mean you’ll survive the aftermath. That said, this isn’t a “classic” disaster movie in the mold of Irwin Allen, where a large group of diverse characters are thrust together and learn to survive while learning that our differences are not so great. First of all, the diversity consists of a couple of Danes. (Everyone else is Norwegian, duh.)
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The movie comes in at a tight 100 minutes, with none of it wasted. The characters are well established, briefly, with tiny vignettes and incidents giving us something to hang our hats on. Idun, for example, establishes she’s a resourceful character early on while resolving a plumbing incident. Sondre stays at the hotel partly because he’s pissed at his dad, but also at least partly there’s a cute girl working the desk next his mom. There’s an implication that Kristian is materialistic and Idun is spiritualistic, though not gone into much. We get neighbors who like the family, and co-workers who like Kristian but find him a bit of a pain in the ass.
Just little bits here-and-there that make it possible for the viewer to hang his hat on. Similarly, choices are made, as they must be in this sort of film, and a decision to act heroically over here may result in a lot of deaths over there. The movie doesn’t hammer these home, staying focused on Kristian’s family for the most part, but their presence in the background fleshes things out in a way that suggests the filmmakers cared.
Fine performances from Kristofer Joner (who was the lead in that After Dark horror movie, Hidden!) and Ane Dahl Torp (Dead Snow) as Kristian and Idun, respectively, as well as for the two kids. Effective score by Magnus Beite (Escape, Ragnarok).
Overall, it’s a fine film. A nail-biter. You really don’t know who’s going to live or die. There’s a kind of shocking murder right in the heat of action. Perfectly understandable but shocking nonetheless.
The Boy and I both liked it, and are at a loss to explain the low audience rating (currently at 65% and falling!) for this. The critics rating is falling, too, but it’s currently at 80% which is closer to where we’d put it.
Honestly, the scenery alone makes it worth checking out.