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Into the Storm

D: Steven Quale / 89m

Cast: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Max Deacon, Nathan Kress, Alycia Debnam Carey, Arlen Escarpeta, Jeremy Sumpter, Lee Whittaker, Kyle Davis, Jon Reep

Documentary filmmaker Pete Moore (Walsh) is having a hard time finding tornados to film for his latest project, despite help from meteorologist, Allison Stone (Callies).  When a storm warning is given out near Silverton, Oklahoma, Pete and his team rush there only for the storm to peter out.  Meanwhile, at the high school, the senior class is having its graduation day.  Assistant principal Gary Fuller (Armitage) is worried about the impending weather spoiling the day and wants the ceremony postponed.  He’s overruled and it goes ahead; partway through, the storm hits and a tornado causes damage to the school buildings and grounds.  At the same time, Fuller’s eldest son, Donnie (Deacon), is several miles away with fellow student, Kaitlyn (Carey), filming a project at an abandoned paper mill.  When the tornado hits there, they find themselves trapped beneath the debris.

Moore and his team continue to chase the ever-increasing number of tornados that keep springing up, while Fuller, accompanied by his younger son, Trey (Kress) try to rescue Donnie and Kaitlyn.  Their paths cross and they team up to find the youngsters (though Moore is still more interested in getting footage for his documentary).  They find them, but realise that a tornado the size of which has never been seen before is heading for the high school, and only they can save the people taking shelter there.

Into the Storm - scene

Into the Storm invites obvious comparisons with Jan de Bont’s Twister (1996), and while the special effects certainly look more impressive, there’s a level of detail in the earlier movie that’s missing here, and though this movie’s super-tornado dwarfs anything seen before, its scale and ferocity keeps changing (it chucks 747s around like so much matchwood, but can’t lift Moore’s tank-like tornado chaser until the screenplay says so).  What’s also missing is a decent script, John Swetnam’s attempts at excitement falling flatter than a pancake, and his characters behaving and sounding exactly like the stereotypes they are (they even behave predictably: Moore is a boorish ass for three quarters of the movie then suddenly acts selflessly – as if).

The script isn’t helped by Quale’s flaccid direction and a cast who look as if they know just how poor the script is, and have decided to do just as much as is needed to get their lines out with a minimum of effort.  Armitage is stranded in his role as the tough widower trying to raise two wayward sons, while Callies keeps stopping to (try to) have unnecessary phone calls with her five year old daughter.  And then there’s the dumbest duo on the planet, Donk (Davis) and Reevis (Reep), the redneck comic relief, who put themselves in harm’s way in the hope of becoming famous on YouTube.

While the movie aims for incredible scenes of destruction in between the banal theatrics of its characters, Into the Storm ultimately fails because there’s no one to care about, and the tornado scenes are about as thrilling as watching ice cream melt.  But it is a short movie, and while the decision to shoot found footage-style adds a level of immediacy to the devastation, it’s not enough to rescue the movie from falling far short of where the cow ends up.

Rating: 3/10 – adequate special effects and a mercifully short running time can’t make amends for the paucity of imagination and delivery on show here; the only area in which Into the Storm succeeds is that it’s a step up from being a SyFy Channel release.