Appropriately titled disaster film “Into the Storm” was released on a busy weekend for late summer films. “Into the Storm” has some stiff competition for audiences’ attention. Writer John Swetnam, even competes against himself with credits on two new releases.
The film begins with four teenagers passing time in an SUV during a storm. Beginning a theme that will continue throughout the film, some of the footage is shot to appear like it comes from a phone camera. The ever-presence of cameras and the desire for social media attention leads the kids to be caught in a tornado.
The next day, a crew of storm chasers including a meteorologist, three camera operators and drivers and the leader Pete (Matt Walsh) man two vehicles. The Titus, a storm tank with bullet proof windows and armor, and a research vehicle. Pete is seething because the entire season his meteorologist Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies) has failed to guide him to a tornado.
In fictitious Silverton, Oklahoma, high school junior Donny Fuller (Max Deacon) is shooting a video time capsule for an older him to view in twenty five years. His brother Trey (Nathan Kress) steps into the shot, making fun of his brother’s crush on Kaitlyn Johnson (Alycia Debnam Carey). In the kitchen the boys’ father is eating breakfast and doesn’t appreciate being interrupted by the video work. Gary Fuller (Richard Armitage) is the stern-faced vice principal of the high school and is caught up planning the day’s graduation ceremony.
At school, Trey and Donny witness Kaitlyn discussing a problem with an application for an internship with one of the teachers. Trey goads Donny into offering to help, and is shocked that Donny actually goes through with it.
Donny offers to help Kaitlyn and learns that film she shot for the application is corrupted. Donny suggests they shoot her film project over again. Kaitlyn says it has to be that day, pushing his duty to film the graduation ceremony on to his younger brother.
Comic relief is provided by two unemployed buddies that are desperate to hit it big on social media by filming their antics. Seeing the Titus roll by after a stunt, they learn that a building storm might produce a tornado and give them the clip they need to make it big.
Donny and Kaitlyn head out to the abandoned industrial location for her environmental piece while the seniors, teachers and administrators gather for graduation. A storm begins to pelt the graduation, which ends it quickly and sends everyone running for shelter. Then a tornado grazes the school.
Worried about his son, Gary calls his Donny. Donny fearing a confrontation doesn’t answer. Borrowing his other son’s phone, Donny answers the call but Gary isn’t able to get a warning out in time and cell service is cut. Soon after the tornado hits the old paper mill, trapping Donny and Kaitlyn in a pit under the rubble.
More tornadoes form forcing even the Titus’ crew to seek shelter. The storm is behaving strangely and reforming repeatedly over Silverton, eventually spawning a giant super tornado that threatens to destroy everyone sheltered at the school.
Obvious comparisons to the wildly successful, if not really all that good, 1996 film “Twister” aside, this is more than a retelling of the same story. Notably not present is the “evil” corporate sponsored bad guy storm chasers. Instead a couple of unemployed YouTube daredevils provide the competition, if you want to call it that.
I was initially annoyed by the social media video feel of some parts of the movie, but I grew to accept it as unfortunate realism. As the filming style faded into the movie some advantages of the decision were evident. Characters playing for the cameras gave them a bit of depth that wasn’t really there in the script otherwise.
Many of the characters were obvious stereotypes. The stern, overworked father. The brattish, overconfident teens, the meek awkward brother, the obsessed filmmaker. All of these tired examples and many others didn’t help the actors at all and the script of “Into the Storm” didn’t do much to flesh out the characters either.
Despite that, I did enjoy this film more than “Twister.” “Into the Storm” provides those who have had the nightmare of seemingly sentient tornadoes chasing them from one hiding place to another with new images to add to their dreams. Some of the tornado scenes were terrifying even if the characters seemed to be lacking the correct level of terror themselves.
Yes, the tornadoes almost sounded like Godzilla at times, and sure the film might have been a bit more serious without the two country boys that kept risking their lives in the dumbest ways possible, but at least the director had the sense to never once have Reevis (Jon Reep) ask if the Titus had a hemi. I’ll take a couple of know-nothings over bad guy meteorologists any day.