What would happen if a cascade of storms coalesced to create one massive storm? What would you do? This is the theme riding throughout “Into the Storm”. It is a sunny, lovely day for a high school graduation. Donnie, Matt Deacon and Trey, Nathan Kress, two brothers, are shooting a video time capsule for the event. In it they speculate on who they will be in twenty-five years as well as what they will have become. In addition to this, they ask others such as their dad, neighbors and friends.
Meanwhile, we have a roving crew of storm hunters, one in a van and the other in the military style contraption called the “Titus”. This professional crew consists of Allison, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Daryl, Arlen Escarpeta, in the tech van and Pete, Max Walsh and Jacob, Jeremy Sumpter, in the Titus. Pete and Allison are in a constant battle because he is obsessed with filming storms, while she seems to miss every opportunity.
Juxtaposed to this, is the Youtube crew, of two hillbilly types, Donk, Kyle Davis, and Reevis, Jon Reep who create zany hijinks (such as filming one of them riding a motorcycle going off a ramp and over a pool set on fire with gasoline). They are the local yokels who will do anything for fame and fortune.
As graduation approaches, Donnie is encouraged by Trey to meet up with his heart throb, Kaitlyn, Alycia Debnam Carey before she graduates and goes off to college. Donnie discovers that Kaitlyn lost her video for a project she was working on and offers to help her with it. They go to an abandoned paper mill to do this. The glitch here though is that Gary, Richard Armitage, (their dad) does not know this, and has no idea where Donnie is.
All of this is the perfect set up for some much contrived mayhem, near tragic and some very tragic occurrences once the storm does hit. What will happen to Donnie and Kaitlyn? What about the school?
In this film though it is not just those pertinent questions which are important, but how things are set up and ultimately resolved. It is all too perfect that the storm hits just as the outdoor ceremony is starting, at first forcing the students to take out umbrellas and then run as the wind picks up into the school. What they do not realize is the intensity of the storm.
Allison sees on radar that the storm is heading straight to the school, and heads over there with her crew just in time. This is when the film really starts to pick up along with the wind.
“Into the Storm” seems to go off the postulation that climatologists have made that due to climate change, storms will get not only more frequent in occurrence, but stronger in terms of velocity. There are no overt statements as to the cause, but there are less than subtle allusions to the casting off of religious views (at one point they shelter in a church) and even though the winds are blowing hard, the votive candles remain intact and flickering. In addition, someone dies by burning in one of the funnels which is suddenly on fire, in front of the church.
Are they saying that humanity has so lost its way that this is the consequence? These are the kind of pedantic clichés though which are common in the film. The Titus has spokes that gore into the earth and can withstand winds up to 170 mph. Therefore, when the storms combine and the winds gear up to 300 mph it is clear that at some time the Titus due to wind and rain, will not have the traction to withstand the force. We just don’t know when.
The special effects in this movie are outstanding. One feels as if they are experiencing the real deal, yet if we are supposed to be in the midst of a small town in the Midwest, why is there suddenly a major metropolitan airport? Was this merely to add in the scenes of jets being buoyed around by the wind like flying seals nodding and braying to one another? It looks cool, and must be especially so in 3-D, yet factually, such airports only exist within major metropolitan areas not in the boondocks of the Midwest.
Here in comes the other problem with this film. While the special effects are splendid, the acting is inauthentic. Richard Armitage seems so burdened by the weight of using a Midwest accent that he comes off as stilted and wooden. He is going through the motions, much like a marionette in front of a painted backdrop. The same can be said for the time capsule video, which they stop and start throughout the film. This has a hollow quality which adds to the lackluster quality of the film.
There are two scenes within the story which are the most genuine. One in which Donnie talks about the last time he spoke with his mother before she died, and the other as Pete ascends into the eye of the storm. The latter one has a lovely haunting tone visually, though no words are uttered.
This brings up the other issue, which is that of the Disney parents meaning no one has an actual set of parents. Donnie and Trey have one parent, and Allison, has a daughter, but no husband or boyfriend which makes it seem as if she was hatched from a pod. While this may seem unimportant, it has become all too commonplace. For Allison’s daughter (she is only five) this lack of a father is normal, but for Donnie especially, the loss of his mother, is something which elicits a moment of realism and calm within the storm.
It is unfortunate that this film has such a formulaic quality to it. Even when they wrap it up at the end, it has the feel of a high school play rather than an actual film; a play done with the additional bonus of a large special effects unit and a budget to match.