With Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Max Deacon, Nathan Kress. Written by John Swetnam. Directed by Steven Quale. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references. 89 minutes.
The best way to describe INTO THE STORM is that it is weather porn. That’s not a glib cheap shot. It’s an accurate summing up of a totally empty film that exists for one purpose: to thrill people who get off on extreme weather.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. While you would be foolish to put your life at risk viewing storms like these up close, there is something very exciting about nature gone wild whether it’s a blizzard, a thunderstorm or, as here, a series of tornadoes. It’s what the creators of the Weather Channel count on since almost everyone now gets the temperature and forecast on their smartphones or other electronic device.
The people who created the special effects for “Into the Storm” did a very good job in showing both tornadoes and the destruction they leave in their wake. You’ve read news reports of roofs ripped off or cars flung around like toys. Here you get to see all that and much more. Indeed, these are the film’s “money shots.”
Certainly no one will be going for the story or the performances. Like classic porn, the plot points are just set ups for the action. It’s not quite the pizza boy at the door. Instead, it’s the storm chasers desperately needing film footage and a teenage couple trapped in a building that has collapsed. There’s a cast list at the movie’s end noting that professional actors are playing these parts. It’s nice that these people found paying work, but all of them could have been replaced by CGI characters or models or even hand puppets for all of the depth of character that’s displayed.
It’s the tornadoes who are the real stars here. The scenes of destruction are exciting and terrifying. Anyone still recovering from the real life tornado that hit Revere last week might want to give this a pass. In one scene, a high school that has been a designated shelter is suddenly in the direct path of the storm and everyone has to quickly clear out. We get a sense just how volatile and unpredictable these storm systems can be.
Another scene seems more like something out of “Sharknado” and fairly begs confirmation or debunking from someone who actually knows meteorology. One of the twisters hits a fuel pump and starts sucking up gasoline into the vortex. We then see it ignite and the tornado itself seemly catching fire. Is this real or Hollywood hokum? (Apparently this is based on a real phenomenon known as a “fire whirl” but it’s not clear if the depiction in the movie is realistic.)
Naturally, this all builds to the big weather orgy in the last act when the mother of storms chases our heroes–at least the ones still alive at that point–and it’s an open question who will make it to the end of the film. The answer to that question is not likely to be of interest to anyone in the audience because we have little to nothing invested in the characters. It’s okay, then, to sit back and root for the storm. That’s what you’ve paid to see, after all.
“Into the Storm” is something fans of extreme weather will want to see on a big screen. And it’s something that no one else needs bother with at all.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.