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This image released by Warner Bros Entertainment shows Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from ‘Into the Storm’. (AP)
‘Disaster thriller’ ‘Storm’ recreates twister terror

LOS ANGELES, Aug 10, (RTRS): When director Steven Quale began researching tornados for a natural disaster film he turned to YouTube for inspiration from eye witness accounts to convey the real terror and devastation of twisters. “Into the Storm,” out in US theaters on Friday, starts with a seemingly average day in the fictional Midwest town of Silverton that quickly changes when a storm system sweeps through, bringing the strongest tornadoes ever seen, including a monster mile-wide twister. “People are always drawn to what frightens them. They’re fascinated with the power and the destructive energy that tornadoes or hurricanes or any big natural phenomena have,” Quale said. “They want to experience that, but they want to experience it in the safety of a movie theater.” Quale showcases much of the film through the eyes of storm chasers to recreate the horrifying destruction a tornado inflicts. Actors worked on set with 100 mile-per-hour (160 km-per-hour) wind machines with debris thrown into them to replicate the chaos of a tornado and gauge real reactions from the cast.

Real

“It is something that feels real, you could be there and it doesn’t take you out and suspend disbelief,” the director said. As with many natural disaster films such as 2004’s “Day After Tomorrow,” there is also an underlying message of real life climate change in “Into the Storm” with subtle references to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. “It’s worth investigating and having scientists trying to figure out if there is a connection (to climate change), because if the storms continue, we can’t survive these types of natural disasters because they’re really taking a toll on the whole planet,” Quale said. The film produced by Time Warner Inc’s Warner Bros studios, was made on a budget of about $50 million, and is projected by BoxOffice.com to make $14 million in its US opening weekend.
 
“Into the Storm” follows numerous characters from different backgrounds as they are thrust together in the storm. Gary is a single father of two teen boys and vice principal at a local high school. Allison is a scientist tracking storm behavior on the road but eager to get back to her daughter and Pete is the documentary filmmaker chasing the “shot of the century” in the eye of the tornado. British actor Richard Armitage, best known for his role as Thorin in “The Hobbit” films, saw his character Gary go through nightmare scenarios where he is called to save his children, his school and the people around him as the twisters ravage his town. The actor called Gary the “reluctant hero” of the film. “I liked the idea that we could find something by the end of this single day, that he has emerged as a hero without realizing it, without knowing it, by instinct alone,” Armitage said. “One hopes one would react the same way given the chance.”
 
“Into the Storm” is a movie that addresses the fearsome power of nature. Alas, it also addresses the fearsome power of a bad script to distract us from the fearsome power of nature. “Into the Storm” is a movie that addresses the fearsome power of nature. Alas, it also addresses the fearsome power of a bad script to distract us from the fearsome power of nature. Add to that a set of cardboard characters, and what you have is a movie that should have dispensed with the humans and dialogue altogether, and been a documentary. If, of course, the storms were real. Which they aren’t. The film, directed by Steven Quale, runs only 89 minutes. And yet, despite the often engrossing special effects, it drags. It seems there are only so many times you can watch a funnel cloud bear down, while someone yells out: “We gotta get out of here. C’mon!”
 
Action
The action takes place in one day in the small town of Silverton, somewhere in the heartland. Four high school students have just been killed in a tornado in Oklahoma, which is somewhere nearby. And yet, Silverton’s high school is planning to go ahead with its outdoor graduation, despite the forecast. Maybe this is why Vice Principal Gary Fuller — Richard Armitage, the dwarf leader Thorin of the “Hobbit” movies — is frowning, a state in which he remains throughout the film (his Thorin, though shorter, was much more expressive.) He heads to school with his teenage sons, Donnie and Trey.
 
Meanwhile, a storm-tracking team is on the chase, led by a driven, self-centered documentary filmmaker, Pete (Matt Walsh). He’s spent years developing the perfect storm-tracking vehicle — the Titus, a war tank with giant claws that can bore into the ground amid high winds. Pete’s main assistant is a no-nonsense meteorologist, Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies), a single mom to a five-year-old daughter, whom she’s left home for three months with Grandma. Gary, the vice principal, is also a single parent. But though an eventual romance is briefly hinted at between these attractive folks literally caught in a storm, the idea is dropped, like a piece of twisted wreckage from the sky. (John Swetnam wrote the screenplay.)
 
In any case, back to that graduation. Before the kids can toss their caps into the air, the storm hits — a series of tornadoes like no one has ever seen. Making things worse, Gary’s older son, Donnie, is missing — he’s ditched graduation to help a pretty girl make a video at an abandoned paper mill. They’ll soon be trapped by rising waters, and making goodbye videos to their parents. But that’s not the biggest problem. What’s worse is that there’s nothing interesting about any of these characters, with the possible exception of Donnie (Max Deacon) — the only person you care about, even a little.
 
There are also a couple of stereotypical dufuses — Donk and Reevis — who drink and swear and whoop and holler as the storm comes in. Darned if they’re not the most annoying characters in any movie you’ll see this entire year. We’d bet money on it. In any case, the star — the ONLY star — is the weather. Director Quale knows his way around special effects, and so the CGI tornadoes are interesting to watch, for a time. But there’s little attention to logic. Silverton is a small town. And yet, we suddenly see huge jet planes, like those you’d find at JFK or LAX, being lifted up into the sky. Where’d they come from?
 
Maybe that’s not the point. Maybe we should just sit back and be awed by the power of Mother Nature.
OK. But she deserved a better script. “Into the Storm,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including some sexual references.” Running time: 89 minutes. One-half star out of four.
 

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