Gone with the wind: Into the Storm runs out of ideas

by Mark Burger

On a technical level, Into the Storm is not without its attributes. The editing (by Eric A. Sears) and the cinematography (by Brian Pearson) are impressive at times, and the extravagant CGI special effects depicting destructive tornadoes didn’t come cheap.

Such technical achievements are relegated in service to a clumsy, cliche-riddled soapopera populated by cardboard characters. The erstwhile “master of disaster” Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno) used to do this sort of thing, if not better than certainly more entertaining.

Running a scant 90 minutes, although it often feels longer, Into the Storm tells what happens when a small town is suddenly, inexplicably struck by a series of tornadoes that put a damper (no pun intended) on the high-school graduation ceremony and essentially lay waste to the region.

Richard Armitage plays the widowed high-school vice-principal, for whom the catastrophe provides a (completely predictable) opportunity to reconcile with his teenaged sons (Max Deacon and Nathan Kress). Sarah Wayne Callies plays a single-mother meteorologist separated from her young daughter during the crisis, and Matt Walsh plays a veteran storm-chaser so hell-bent on documenting the storm that his fate is secured early on. The actors approach their roles with an earnest, stony-faced conviction that tends to yield unintentional laughs. There’s no room for them to maneuver. The “human drama,” such as it is, is so lightweight that it almost seems the film will simply blow off the screen during the next big gust.

The comparisons to Twister (1996) are inescapable, despite the 18-year time span. Whereas Twister was also a special-effects extravaganza, it also had some good actors (including Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt and two newcomers named Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jack Black) to incorporate a little personality into the proceedings.

Here, one becomes impatient for the next tornado to touch down – which, it must be admitted, they do with some frequency. Sometimes the human characters chase the storms, sometimes the storms chase them. Some characters die, as they are obligated to, but none of the characters makes much of an impression during their time onscreen.

There’s a Final Destination quality to the proceedings, which is hardly surprising that director Steven Quale helmed the last one and both Sears and Pearson have toiled on previous installments of that (hopefully) defunct franchise.

There’s never an explanation for the ongoing cataclysm; is it climate change, supernatural phenomena or simply script contrivance? Bet on the latter. It’s hardly a matter worth exploring. The answer, it seems, is blowin’ in the wind. !

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