Into the Storm: The Return of the Disaster Film
by Sandra Olmsted As disaster films go, director Steven Quale’s Into the Storms delivers all those films promise: huge, exciting special effects and a human face on hope for survival against bigger-than-life, unstoppable disaster. Like other tornado disaster films since Twister popularized storm chasing, Into the Storm has a team of them. Head storm chaser Pete (Matt Walsh) wishes he hadn’t hired weather expert Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies) because she keeps missing the storms, and he needs to get a tornado on film or loose his funding. His support team consists of experienced driver Daryl (Arlen Escarpeta) and nervous camera operator Jacob (Jeremy Sumpter), who wishes he was on a bench with a drink in his hand. Although she really wants to get home for her five-year-old daughter’s birthday, Allison sends the team toward Silverton and an ominous looking weather formation on the radar.
In the fictional town of Silverton, Gary (Richard Armitage), the widowed vice principal at the high school tries to convince the principal that the graduation should be moved indoors because of the forecast. Gary also struggles to corral his teenage sons, by-the-rules Donnie (Max Deacon) and daredevil Trey (Nathan Kress), who is comfortable with a camera in his hand. Trey convinces his big brother to skip filming the graduation for dad, so that Donnie can help his dream girl Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey) remake a video project at a derelict paper factory outside of town. Meanwhile, Donk (Kyle Davis) and Reevis (Jon Reep), two stoned rednecks, dream of fame and fortune via YouTube hits and stunts worthy of Jacka** TV show.
When the storm sirens blow, Pete happily leads his team into the storm; Gary herds the students and spectators into the building, and Donk and Reevis imagine video of themselves as storm chasers would be a good idea. When Gary discovers that Donnie has gone to the paper factory, he and Trey go after him, but unbeknownst to them, Donnie and Kaitlyn are in a life threatening situation. Unfortunately, only Pete and his team have the knowledge that it won’t be just one tornado, but many that hit the area. The themes of seeing the event through the lenses of people’s digital cameras and of climate change, which is only addressed in one preachy moment when Allison observes that huge storms used to be “once-in-a-lifetime events” and now occur annually, lack meaningful development.
Kudos to production designer David R. Sandefur, art director Marco Rubeo, set decorator Brana Rosenfeld, effects producer Randall Star, and the nine credited visual effects companies for the dynamic special effects that make the tornados and damage look very real. Brian Pearson’s compelling camera work, Eric Sears’ fast pace editing, Brian Tyler’s driving score, and Per Hallberg’s smart sound editing keep the film moving. Screenwriter John Swetnam and Quale, however, can’t rise to the level of Quale’s mentor, James Cameron, in balancing the big story and small ones, but they do put a human face on the disaster adequately enough. Released by Warner Bros., which also released Twister (1996) and The Perfect Storm (2000), Into the Storm is in theaters now. Into the Storm is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references and runs an energetic 89 minutes. ###
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