REVIEW: “Into the Storm” (2014)

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Tornadoes and heavy CGI devastation. “Into the Storm” put all of its eggs (and money) into that basket and hoped it was enough to win an audience. With a budget of $50 million and a box office take of $160 million I would say the movie more than accomplished its goal. Less discerning fans will leave satisfied with the numerous twisters and their swirls of dirt and debris. But if you happen to be looking for anything more than that “Into the Storm” will leave you wanting.

The story follows a couple of groups in and around the small town of Silverton, Oklahoma. One is a group of storm chasers led by Pete (Matt Walsh). He is a veteran chaser who is also working on a documentary, but the storms haven’t been good to him. He’s desperate to track down a tornado and he has brought in meteorologist Allison Stone (Sarah Wayne Callies) to help. She’s on a short leash especially after missing a recent storm and costing Pete some good footage. Pete reluctantly follows Allison’s storm tracker hunch and they head to Silverton.

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In Silverton school vice-principal Gary Fuller (Richard Armitage) is a widower and father of two high school boys. Donnie (Max Deacon) is his more quiet and reserved son. Trey (Nathan Cress) is his more obnoxious younger brother. Neither have had the best or most open relationship with their father since their mother died. It won’t help matters that Donnie shirks his duties of filming a graduation ceremony to help the girl of his dreams with her video school project.

As you can guess a massive storm front comes through spawning a number of tornadoes in Silverton. The movie takes us back and forth between our two groups as they encounter one destructive twister after another. Eventually both groups come together and must survive the queen mother of all tornadoes. I know this is true because one character actually says something like “It’s the biggest tornado ever”. This movie does that a lot. We aren’t allowed to glean information for ourselves. Everything is spelled out for us. Also don’t expect to find interesting and compelling characters. Everyone feels unoriginal and scripted. But to be fair plot, dialogue, and character development aren’t priorities here.

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“Into the Storm” partially redeems itself with its visual presentation. It’s hard not to be impressed with the CGI twisters blowing down trees, tearing through buildings, and slinging 18 wheelers like footballs. The special effects are thrilling, well conceived, and very satisfying. Clearly a huge hunk of the budget went towards the visuals and that’s okay. Most people will see the movie for Mother Nature’s spectacle and it doesn’t disappoint. The only thing that hampers the looks of the film was the decision to go the found-footage route. It’s implementation is clunky, annoying, and quite frankly I’m tired of the gimmick.

At a brisk 89 minutes “Into the Storm” doesn’t exhaust its welcome. It aims for one rather uninspired target and for the most part it hits it. In that regard I had fun with it. But the overly familiar characters, the bland and sometimes silly dialogue, and the plot’s lack of any originality whatsoever makes this just another run-of-the-mill disaster movie. And this leads me to a question: Can we not have a smart and engaging weather based disaster flick? I don’t know, maybe rain, wind, and intelligent creative writing don’t mix.

VERDICT – 2.5 STARS