'Into the Storm': What the Critics Are Saying

5:30 AM PST 08/08/2014 by Kaitlyn Durocher, Ashley Lee

Steven Quale's found-footage film about the biggest tornado of all time stars Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies and Matt Walsh.

The biggest tornado of all time hits theaters on Friday with the opening of Into the Storm, the found-footage tornado movie about an Oklahoma town that is destroyed by relentless cyclones and the people who set out to chase the storm. Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies and Matt Walsh star in the film helmed by Steven Quale, who worked on both Titanic and Avatar.

Following many other tornado-centered films that have already hit Hollywood, the New Line and Warner Bros. is tracking to open in the $17 million-plus range (it cost under $50 million to make) and might hit hardest in Tornado Alley.

Read more about what the top critics are saying about Into the Storm:

The Hollywood Reporter’s film critic Stephen Farber writes in his review that "there's only the most minimal story, and the film probably spends too much time introducing a band of generic characters before the storm actually hits. ... What links all of these characters is that most of them are wielding handheld cameras, and much of the action is presented through the lenses of the characters’ cameras. But this gimmick has been more inventively deployed in many other films, and it isn’t even consistently used here."

Additionally, "the script by John Swetnam is rudimentary, with only the most minimal and pallid stabs at characterization," and comments on Warner Bros. failed attempt at a thriller: "How the mighty have fallen." He does, however, compliment the impressive special effects, noting that "once the funnel clouds begin swirling, Quale and his special effects team achieve some remarkably authentic and frightening moments."

The New York Times' Nicolas Rapold notes that the film is composed of "a series of tornadoes and laughably poor evacuation decisions." Still, he also praises the effects as "less menacing than marveling" onscreen: "Trucks plummet like giant hailstones. The scenes of shelter resemble those moments in airplane dramas in which the cabin is howlingly breached. (The sound design is wizardly.) First-person camerawork is the movie's wearyingly requisite 'update' for our times, necessitating insipid excuses for why we see what we’re seeing. And the notion that we should worry about human beings — even poor Walsh, heroically staying deadpan as lead storm chaser — becomes a source of humor in what is otherwise a showcase for extreme weather."

Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips gives the film one-and-a-half stars: "Like the wind, this particular movie blows tall, unstable columns of hot air willy-nilly." He adds that it is "directed with bland efficiency by Quayle" and filled with "Swetnam's dialogue [which] sounds like auto-corrected exposition," and "reminds us that unless a movie establishes certain base-line levels of human interest, it runs the not-unentertaining risk of coming out squarely in favor of its own bad weather."

The Washington Post’s Stephanie Merry agrees that the special effects are remarkable by saying: "The tornado accomplishes awe-inspiring feats," but then says: "For all the movie’s grandiose annihilation, there also is action so absurd and emotion so saccharine that the likelihood of involuntary laughter is high."

San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle is a bit kinder to the film and focuses mainly on the part that everyone else is also praising, the effects. LaSalle says “maybe someday, in the distant future, the special effects technology in Into the Storm will look fake and make audiences snicker. But today, it's hard to imagine any movie ever topping this one's depiction of killer tornadoes laying waste to the Midwest."

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