The Wave (or Bølgen) is a Norwegian disaster movie released in 2015, with an unusual (and frighteningly plausible) disaster at its core.
The setting is the small tourist village of Geiranger, near one of Norway's many scenic fjords. Tourist season is in full swing and the little four-story hotel, built right into a mountainside, is packed. However, nearby is the Åkerneset crevasse - a point where the entire side of a mountain above the fjord is loose. A monitoring station nearby keeps a close eye on movement in the crevasse, waiting for the inevitable day when the mountain comes loose into the fjord. It stands ready to warn Geiranger and the other lower-elevation towns that a Giant Wall of Watery Doom is on its way.
Most of the movie centers around Kristian Eikfjord, a geologist on his last days working at the Geiranger station, getting ready to move his family up to bigger and better things. His wife works at the tourist hotel nearby, and son and daughter are going through the usual pre-moving blahs. Very early on, however, Åkerneset starts giving off warning signs, leaving it to Kristian to try and save his family when the wave starts its inexorable march down the fjord...
A rare special-effects blockbuster from Norway, The Wave depicts a little-known but spectacular disaster, the displacement megatsunami, which one day will actually happen. Will Geiranger be prepared when that day comes?
Not to be confused with the two movies also called The Wave, about a youth movement based on fascism that goes out of control.
The Wave features examples of:
- Adult Fear: Being separated from your family during an emergency. When the siren sounds, Kristian and his daughter are in the old house, while his wife and son are in the hotel in town.
- Artistic License Physics: Mostly averted. Displacement tsunamis have occurred in modern history, always with spectacularly destructive results. Played straight in the bomb shelter, which remains waterproof just long enough to protect Idun and Sondre from the worst of the tsunami.
- As well, the Scenery Gorn itself after the wave passes through. It likely would have left almost nothing behind save foundations and very small bits of debris. Certainly the tourist bus would have been washed away, as would Kristian's and Anna's ad hoc shelter. Even if the tourist bus was found, the inside would have been a charnel house, not the neat, clean rows of bodies, still in their seats.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The tourist bus passengers are all found dead but all but unmolested. Since they barely made it a block from the hotel, they got the worst of the tsunami; the passengers would have been nothing but a mass of dismembered body parts.
- Cassandra Truth: In keeping with any disaster movie, Kristian detects things on the mountain are getting hinky, and tries to get the monitoring station to sound the alarm immediately. They, of course, refuse...citing the tourist season as the reason to hold off. (Though to be entirely fair, they also don't want to risk people not taking it seriously in the future, if they were to sound it right then and have nothing happen.)
- CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Played straight at the end, with Sondre and Idun working to bring Kristian back from drowning.
- Though downplayed a bit in that it's very visible just how much force with which the chest compressions are applied. Usually CPR as portrayed focuses on the person giving the treatment bouncing somewhat ineffectually on the chest of the other person (bending their elbows on the downstroke so as not to hurt the other actor) - here, Kristian's chest is seen visibly caving in under pressure, which is much more realistic, as real-life CPR often ends with broken ribs.
- Developing Doomed Characters: The movie abounds with Mauve Shirts, more than your typical disaster epic.
- Disaster Movie: And apparently the Norwegians are dedicated followers of the genre.
- Disney Death: Kristian appears to have drowned at the end while his son desperately performs CPR on him. Several agonizing seconds go by as it appears to be in vain before Kristian finally wakes up.
- Dwindling Party: Idun and Sondre hole up in a basement bomb shelter with two Danish tourists. The wife is washed away before they can close the shelter, causing her husband to panic. This forces Idun to drown him to save Sondre and herself...the rest of the hotel staff and guests? Their bus never makes it out of the valley.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Arvid's Heroic Sacrifice to assure Jacob's survival when the mountain falls out from under them. In addition, just before he dies, he orders the station to sound the tsunami sirens, saving many lives.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Kristian and his family all survive but go through hell on Earth to do it, including Kristian nearly drowning twice and escaping death in the tsunami only by blind luck and Plot Armor.
- Fight to Survive: Centers around Kristian and his family.
- Foreboding Fleeing Flock: When Kristian notices every bird on the mountain abruptly taking flight and making tracks away, he knows that shit is about to get real. Cue...
- Giant Wall of Watery Doom: In the form of a 300-foot-tall megatsunami, generated by a landslide off Åkerneset. Once it begins marching down the fjord, everyone has 10 minutes to escape to high ground. Some who leave early make it, as well as Kristian and his family. Most, however, die when the wave hits.
- Hope Spot: The Åkerneset crevasse is closing in fast on our Mauve Shirts, ready to crush them to death. Then it stops...and both Arvid and Jacob know what's about to happen. Arvid clips Jacob to the zipline brace, just before the landslide lets loose, dragging him away.
- The bomb shelter protects Idun, Sondre, and Philip from the worst of the tsunami. However, once it passes, the fact that it is below ground means a large amount of water is left around it - which starts finding its way around the door almost immediately.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Arvid, saving Jacob's life at the cost of his own when the landslide begins.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Anna is impaled by debris when the tsunami hits her and Kristian's van.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Arvid, Kristian's old boss, refuses to sound the alert when two groundwater sensors abruptly drop out. He dies when the mountain lets go later.
- Mr. Exposition: Kristian serves this purpose, explaining why a sudden dropout of ground water sensors is a very, very bad thing.
- Norse by Norsewest: Refreshingly averted. The Norwegians are a good cross-section of their country, and after the wave rolls through, the survivors are quickly reduced to tears by the sheer magnitude of the death and destruction.
- Oh, Crap!: Lots:
- Plenty of moments before wave hits, especially from Kristian (see Foreboding Fleeing Flock above) and from the unfortunate Arvid and Jacob when the crevasse starts to move...
- When the sirens sound, pretty much everyone that hears them has an Oh, Crap! moment. Idun at the hotel realizes the implications: They have 10 minutes to evacuate everyone to high ground before the wave arrives. Pretty much nobody from the hotel makes it, though Idun, Sondre and Philip do survive the tsunami itself.
- Kristian upon realizing he had hit an evacuation traffic jam and was only a bit more the halfway to safety - with the wave four minutes away.
- Everyone once the wave rounds a bend of the fjord and into visual range, marking off approximately 20 seconds before it hits.
- One-Word Title: The Norwegian name, at least. Averted in the English title.
- Outrun The Giant Wave: Kristian and many others attempt to do this when the road out of town jams. They nearly all fail, including Kristian and Anna.
- Plot Armor: Kristian and his family, big time. He locks himself and Anna in a van right as the tsunami rolls in, and somehow manages to survive. Anna is not so lucky.
- Primal Fear: The scenes in the crevasse and after the wave rolls in, especially. If you're claustrophobic or fear drowning, this isn't the movie for you!
- Ripped from the Headlines: A Norwegian version. Åkernese and Geiranger are quite real, and Åkernese is expected to slide into Geirangerfjord and generate a giant displacement tsunami. But nobody knows exactly when...
- Rule of Cool: The ad-hoc shelters chosen by the protagonists to try and survive the tsunami all work, but always at a price.
- Scenery Gorn: After the wave rolls through, there's pretty much nothing left of the village but bits of scattered debris, fires, the shell of the tourist hotel, and the tourist bus full of drowned and crushed bodies. It scours everything up to 80 meters above sea level as it passes through, down to bare bedrock.
Kristian (in Norwegian): When did you start caring how many souvenirs we sold?!note
- A huge one to The Abyss at the end, when Sondre has to restart Kristian's heart with the Power of Love.
- There's also one to Jaws when Arvid cites the tourist season as a reason to hold off sounding the tsunami sirens. Kristian's incredulous reaction to this sums it nicely:
Arvid: Thats for fucks sake not what this is about! What do you think will be the consequences if we cry wolf every time we think something happens up there? What the fuck do we do the day the landslide goes off?!note
- Arvid is actually more concerned about accidentally triggering a false alarm, fearing the population won't take them seriously once the real deal happens.
- Shown Their Work: The filmmakers did a lot of research into the geology of giant landslides and their associated megatsunami, and it shows.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Kristian is something of a pottymouth, but this stops cold when the sirens begin sounding. The Danish tourist Philip definitely qualifies, as he repeatedly drops Precision F Strikes during his time in the bomb shelter.
- Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: The simulation of the landslide and the tsunami's propagation down the fjord to Geiranger. Once the wave begins actually rolling down the fjord, the outpost tracks its progress, right down to a countdown to its reaching Geiranger.
- Suit with Vested Interests: Arvid is pretty reluctant to trigger the alarm at first, having Kristian believe he is firmly one of these. Arvid then explains himself, showing that he's concerned about people's lives, too, just not wanting to risk Crying Wolf because when the time for a real emergency comes people will get killed because they will hear the siren and decide not to react. He still orders an increase in watches and when it's clear that the disaster is going to happen then he orders the alarm to be sounded.
- This Is Gonna Suck: More then the sirens, the little earthquake that everyone feels as Åkernese lets loose underlines what's coming...and how little time they all have.
- Too Dumb to Live: Once the sirens start sounding, everyone, including the protagonist, is very well aware that they have 10 minutes to get to higher ground, and yet they take time out to make phone calls, try to rescue a few more people, pack possessions in their cars...the crowner, though, is the hotel staff waiting until the wave is almost on top of them to dispatch the bus. It costs everyone on it their lives.
- To be fair, this was in part by the stubborn bus driver being unwilling to drive out the bus because of something to do with the passengers luggage (the exact circumstances were never fully discussed on screen).