Huffing and puffing
The forecast is stormy, with a chance of cheeseballs.
SURE, there were many tornadoes in this movie. But somehow I felt cheated because ... I didn’t see one single shark!
Oh, but wait. This is not SyFy, and Into The Storm is not some ultra-low-budget dodgy-CGI-laden flick with 1980s-90s’ sci-fi/fantasy stars. Heck no, it’s probably got a modest budget, the CGI is suitably ... stormy, and its sci-fi/fantasy stars are fairly current (hey there, The Hobbit’s Richard Armitage and The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies).
To be fair though, I doubt if sharks would have done anything for it.
Coming at us almost 20 years after Twister, that 1996 wannabe-classic adventure/disaster flick, Into The Storm offers scary storm sequences, decent characters you don’t wish to see get swept off by a tornado within five minutes of them walking on screen, and some cheesy disaster-movie cliches from young lovers in peril to a sudden sacrificial act from an unexpected quarter.
And while it doesn’t have the “flying” cows of Twister, it does have a couple of bovine-brained drunken daredevils getting tossed about in high winds.
Like Twister too, Into The Storm has a group of storm chasers at the centre of things, but only one of them, Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies), seems to be in it for the science. To update things a little, team leader Pete (Matt Walsh) is actually after a big documentary/reality-TV payday, and dreams of getting “a shot that only God has ever seen”, right in the eye of the storm.
To accomplish that, he’s built this armoured vehicle that looks like a roughshod version of the (Nolan) Batmobile and stuck cameras all over and inside it. And he’s named it Titus. And he also refers to it as “her”. (Maybe Pete should spend time chasing things other than tornadoes, hmm.)
Titus is quite an impressive piece of hardware, and figures prominently in the nail-biting finale, but the good thing about Into The Storm, making up for all its familiarity and cheesiness, is that it doesn’t save everything for last.
It kicks into high gear quite early on, after introducing us to the Titus crew and to small-town high school vice-principal Gary (Armitage) and his sons Donnie (Max Deacon) and Trey (Nathan Kress, who makes “smart-@$$” kind of likeable).
Allison leads a sceptical Pete and his crew to Gary’s small town, a place called Silverton, where she insists a big storm front is going to touch down – contrary to everyone else’s forecasts. But hey, it’s the former Mrs Rick Grimes, and she’s got data on her side, so Silverton it is. Much to everyone’s regret, because the “big one” they’re tracking is actually several storms that are about to converge and form one freaky wedge (a tornado that’s about as wide as it is tall) that will just ... obliterate everything in its path.
So our central characters and those luckless enough to be around them go through one life-threatening moment after another, and to the film’s credit I really found myself giving a darn about their fates (I audibly gasped when one luckless chap literally went up in flames).
There’s also a found-footage aspect to the narrative, mainly because Gary has tasked his sons with making a time-capsule video of Silverton’s students and residents recording messages to their future selves. They add humour to the early proceedings, and later, when the survivors get a chance to revise their messages, poignancy in the closing moments.
At just about 90 minutes, Into The Storm doesn’t stick around long enough to wear out its welcome. While it does test our patience with stock situations that are often too familiar, it delivers on the disaster front – those dark clouds swirling around on screen really do pack a punch.