Geostorm takes incoherence to a whole new level, one I never thought possible. A guy dies on a space station for reasons that are entirely unclear and it seemed to me I had missed something. I rewound because I thought I missed an important detail, but I didn’t. It is just an unexplained and unexpected event almost 20 minutes into a 109 minute movie. The music cues told me this event was very mysterious, and eventually it ends up being a super important plot point because it brings Gerard Butler into the mix (because he designed the space station in question). Come to think of it, Butler as a space station designer is one of the most believable aspects of this film. That’s Geostorm in a nutshell.
Geostorm is a ripoff of Armageddon, right down to tragedies in Asia and hail the size of basketballs, and Butler is asked to be both Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis. He is not up to the task to even being William Fichter (the guy with the gun in space). But rest assured, there is tons of drama to come, and it is set to the most over-dramatic and generic music imaginable. And the drama keeps on building as the scientists theorize that a Geostorm is on the way, and it turns out that Butler and his brother have quite a complex relationship, and a secret code, and lots of sciency gibberish to share with each other. At least I think these things were an attempt to add depth to these characters, but it all comes off as total garbage, and a pale imitation of other disaster movies that weren’t all that great in the first place. The worst part is, there’s not even a Geostorm for, like, ever, as we are forced to wait and wait for the disaster to actually occur while the scientists overhype it (by a lot).
I am quick to make fun of Michael Bay, because he makes lots of big, dumb movies that make little to no sense. Well, Geostorm made me feel kind of bad about having done that, repeatedly. Mr. Bay, I am truly sorry for ever calling you a talentless hack because Geostorm makes Armageddon look like 2001: A Space Odyssey. In short, as a film, Geostorm is a disaster on a global scale. Fortunately, this is one disaster you can avoid all by yourself, without needing to prove that climate change is real.
On his way to his young daughter’s birthday party, a man becomes trapped in his car as a tunnel collapses around him. There’s no telling when or if help with arrive, and all he’s got are 2 bottles of water and a birthday cake to see him through. His wife finds out in the worst way imaginable and the Korean news is pretty ruthless in reporting the failure of a newly-built piece of infrastructure. The damage is so encompassing that the rescue will be a long-term affair and there’s no guarantee that a little water and cake will be enough to keep him alive until help arrives. Of course, that’s not even considering whether the panic and isolation might get him first – or if the poorly and hastily constructed tunnel might further deteriorate.
Jung-soo (Jung-woo Ha) is the man in the tunnel so of course this movie is his. As blunders delay the rescue and the national media loses interest, this poor guy is as alone on this earth as anyone will ever be. He isn’t just going through a physical hardship, but a psychological one as well. Occasional glimpses of the rescue effort reminds us just how bleak his situation really is. Dae-kyoung (Dal-su Oh) is the only member of the rescue team truly dedicated to Jung-soo’s survival. Politicans are turning their backs and resources are drying up – are being redirected, in fact, to the construction of yet another tunnel. Meanwhile, Jung-soo’s wife, Se-hyun (Doona Bae) treads the fine line between hope and realism. This trio of actors give very fine performances. Tunnel ends up being more character-driven than action movie, and that’s a good thing. When the script demands it, the visual effects are there, but it’s Jung-woo Ha and co-stars who drive the story forward. It’s a story we’ve seen and heard before but writer-director Kim Seong-hun injects this with satirical elements that bring renewed interest to the genre.
Tunnel is perhaps overlong and could have benefited from some fat-trimming but I still really enjoyed it. It’s got some juicily angry scenes (Kim Seong-hun obviously has something to say about bureaucracy in general and his nation’s government in particular) and some surprisingly dark humour. You might not expect to chuckle through a disaster flick, but this one’s got a little bit of everything.
We tried to see this at the Whistler Film Festival but they had both technical and organizational difficulties that meant the movie just didn’t play at our intended screening, and they weren’t able to get us into any other.
The good news is, it’s on Netflix now, and you can satisfy your curiosity as to how Norwegians handle disaster flicks. The easy answer: a lot like us. Sure they sound a bit like the Swedish Chef (yes I really am this ignorant!), but they’re privy to all the same tropes that we are:
- One guy knows the disaster is coming. No one will listen to him.
- His family is split up. Can he save his wife and son?
- His son is of course not paying attention. Doesn’t hear warnings. Impedes escape.
- Outrunning the disaster. Usually unsuccessful for most.
- Since the disaster is never enough, there has to be a superficial villain, and his or her karmic death.
- One word title. You may think the The in The Wave negates this, but it’s just Bølgen in its language of origin.
Kristian (Kristoffer Joner, in a weird combination of Hillary Clinton haircut and ginger pedo mustache) is a geologist who knows what’s coming, only no one will believe him. Classic case of ignored scientist syndrome. His wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) and son Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) are at a resort hotel in town. He and his young daughter Julia (Edith Haagenrud-Sande) are of course elsewhere so of course when the alarm finally does sound, it’s too late for most, and this family will have to further test the odds by dividing them.
The disaster: an avalanche causes a rock slide which causes a violent tsunami. And it was such a picturesque fjord up until then. Everyone starts driving in an up direction, which of course causes deadlock. They abandon cars to run. Some are so stupid you’ll hope to see them die (everyone else screams at this idiot too, right? Like, fuck, your stuffed bunny from the carnival where you had your 3rd best date isn’t literally to die for you motherfucker!!!) But the end for some will be so horrible you’ll take it all back, forgive them all their dumb mistakes. More or less.
There are fewer special effects scenes in this movie, which they make up for with more character, and that’s refreshing in a tired genre. In fact, this setting being relatively unknown is a nice change of pace. There’s no White House explosion or underwater Statue of Liberty. It’s new to my eyes, and likely to yours. Director Roar Uthaug gives us gritty rather than slick but it went down just as easily.