Rated PG-13. Running time 1 hour 23 min.
Our Content ratings (0-10): Violence 4; Language 2; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (0-5): 2.5
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook.
The ancients, with no concept of science and nature, connected whirlwinds and lightning directly to God—and in often saw these devastating forces as divine punishment for sin. If this were the case in this disaster film, then the Midwest town of Silverton must have been full of sin—a convergence of four tornadoes creates a monster storm of wind s of 300 mph! The people we meet, however, are not lascivious sinners, but just ordinary folk going about their job.
The first part of the film, like other disaster films, sets up the various characters about whom we are to care enough about to root for them when the disaster hits. There are two groups of characters. First is a team of storm chasers headed by filmmaker Pete (Matt Walsh) and meteorologist Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies). It has been a year since they have scored a success, so with money running out, they have come to the area badly in need of some spectacular shots, such as within the eye of a tornado. Chief among the second group is Silverton High School assistant principal Gary (Richard Armitage), debating with Principal Walker (Scott Lawrence) about canceling the graduation ceremony because of the bad weather reports. Walker nixes this, a decision that, of course, will put the lives of hundreds of students and parents in jeopardy. Gary has two sons Donnie (Max Deacon) and Trey (Nathan Kress), skilled in videography. Donnie has been admiring fellow Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey) for a long time from a distance, and amidst the life-threatening storm the two of them will be thrown together.
The special effects are truly awesome, combined with an impressive soundtrack and big screen that seems to place us in the midst of the turmoil. Having once taken shelter in a basement while a much smaller tornado passed too close for comfort, I can testify to the authenticity of that sound track! Roofs are torn off buildings; a fire breaks out at a demolished gas station where one of the funnels sucks up the flames, creating a blazing column reminiscent of the fiery pillar that guided the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai—although there is nothing benevolent about this one. Bricks, pieces of mortar, garbage cans, cars, and who knows what else are flung about. When the roof of the high school is torn away, the people have to cling to the locker handles and one another to prevent being sucked out of the building. At an airport airliners take to the air, but not under their own power. Massive tractor-trailers are whirled aloft as if they were Tonka Toys.
This is not a great movie, with its over the top sequence of bringing together not one or two, but four twisters, but it does deliver great thrills. Director Steven Quale, screenwriter John Swetnam, director of photography Brian Pearson, and production designer David Sandefur bring us as close to the real thing as I would want to go. This is one of those films that must be seen on a big screen to fully appreciate.
The review with a set of discussion questions will be in the Nov. issue of Visual Parables.