Kristian Eikjord (Kristoffer Joner) works at the station that monitors the geological activity in the Norwegian fjord at the mountain range known as the Akernes, for there is a real danger that parts will crack open and fall into the water, creating a devastating wave. This has happened before, albeit some time ago, but it is expected to happen again and it could cause significant loss of life if the warning system is not implemented soon enough, which is why they need men like Kristoffer to patrol the fault with their special equipment. Or at least they used to have men like him, but today is his last day working there as he takes his family to the big city tomorrow for a new job and a new life. However, there is something bothering him as his leaving plans are in effect...
Disaster movies are by no means the sole provenance of Hollywood, though while they have been around since practically the beginning of cinema there was a point that it seemed they were exclusively identified with the American studios with enough of a budget to stump up for the effects and all-star casts. But if The Wave, or Bølgen as it was originally called, proved anything, it was that a small nation such as Norway could take on the movie big boys and produce an epic easily as satisfying, if not more, than anything from across the Atlantic, complete with genuine suspense, characters that you were invested in, and, yes, those special effects that were such a major part of pulling off a work like this.
Although when you added them up the actual disaster images created on computer did not amount to a huge amount of screen time, director Roar Uthaug with his screenwriters John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg were canny enough to be aware of how to use them effectively, and how with some fine production design even a small dose of disaster on the grand scale visually could be made to count towards an event that made its impact over the course of an entire feature. He had cut his teeth on the Cold Prey slasher movies, which had picked up an international cult following, and he looked set to continue that success in a different genre, propped up by the fact that what was depicted here was more or less what was set to occur in real life sooner or later.
One would hope later, when a solution to the issue involving more than simply running away as fast as you could would present itself, but you can't make a tense movie out of that, so running away was what we were served up with The Wave. The introductory scenes resembled something out of one of those Scandinavian dramas from television, only capitalising on the beauty of the northern Norwegian landscape, as we were given various reasons to care about Kristian and his family, for without that connection any disaster flick wouldn't be worth its salt. Fortunately, Joner made for an engaging everyman, and if his wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) is less than impressed that he's messing around with their schedule because of a hunch he has about the impending doom, then she was preferable to regulation surly teen Sondre (Jonas Hoff Ottebro).
But even he wasn't too objectionable, just a bit sad at leaving the home he knew behind, and the youngest, daughter Julia (Edith Haagenrud-Sande), was more of an emotional heart of the piece, doing her best Dakota Fanning (younger version) to supply the requisite human interest when it came to rescuing the younglings. Of course, this was predictable to a point, with the title a dead giveaway as to what was about to be inflicted on the fjord, but Uthaug found variations on his theme, adding in quirks and threats that Hollywood would likely not have considered: not everyone was going to survive, but the reasons for that might be less conventional than you might have anticipated. When peril does strike, there was a shade too much of the potential victims simply standing and staring at the oncoming horror, but who knows how you would really react in such a situation where all seemed to be lost? All in all, it wasn't going to change the world, it was derivative of other properties, but it was a deserved hit in Norway, and equally deservedly picked up interest elsewhere. Music by Magnus Beite.