Blu-Ray Review: “Into The Storm” Is Exciting And Thrilling And Q & A With Director Steven Quale

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Review by James McDonald

Storm trackers, thrill-seekers, and everyday townspeople document an unprecedented onslaught of tornadoes touching down in the town of Silverton.

I have to admit, “Into the Storm” is the one movie I had been anticipating all summer long. I first saw the preview for the film a few months ago and it immediately took me back to the summer of 1996 when Jan de Bont’s “Twister” was released, along with the first “Mission: Impossible” and Schwarzenegger’s “Eraser”, a year when sequels did not dominate the box-office. “Into the Storm” is a popcorn movie, plain and simple. It’s what summer movies are meant to be about, pure escapism accompanied by some truly jaw-dropping special effects. We have all seen on TV, the carnage and sheer destruction left behind in the wake of a tornado and director Steven Quale does a commendable job blending fiction and actual real-life footage and does so cautiously and tastefully.

As the movie begins, we are introduced to siblings Donnie (Max Deacon) and Trey (Nathan Kress), they are getting ready to graduate high school and their father Gary (Richard Armitage), who just happens to be the school vice-principal, is distracted as the local weather station is predicting a huge storm front which could affect the day’s proceedings. Donnie and Trey have been assigned by their father, the responsibility of recording the ceremony and interviewing students and teachers for the school’s video time capsule. When Donnie has the opportunity to help fellow student and longtime crush Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey) with her final video project, at Trey’s behest, he leaves with her and Trey takes over the recording duties.

Naturally, their father is none too pleased but he has bigger things to worry about when the tornado sirens go off and he and the rest of the faculty have to move quickly to protect the students inside the school safe zone. While Donnie and Kaitlyn are filming at an old abandoned paper mill, the storm traps them beneath some rubble and after the tornado grazes the school and moves towards the center of town, Gary receives a distressing voicemail from Donnie, letting him know they are trapped with no way out and that water is quickly filling up the space where they are confined. Now Gary and Trey must race against the clock and mother nature to try and reach the other side of town before it’s too late.

The movie successfully incorporates people’s use of cell phone cameras plus security footage from the different buildings seen throughout the film and thankfully, it never succumbs to the much dreaded and feared ‘shaky-cam’, where the camera shakes and convulses ad nauseum. Of course, a tornado movie wouldn’t be complete without the quintessential group of storm-chasers and much like the film’s predecessor, the 1996 blockbuster “Twister”, here, we have a rag-tag band of storm trackers who just happen to be producing a documentary about the ultimate storm and will do absolutely anything to get the perfect shot. Richard Armitage, who looks so different from his Thorin Oakenshield character in “The Hobbit” movies, exudes charm and charisma and makes for a good action hero.

Sarah Wayne Callies, who played Lori Grimes on “The Walking Dead”, is one of the aforementioned storm chasers and her and Richard Armitage play well off each other and are perfectly suited together as both of their characters are single parents, both trying to reach their children. Director Steven Quale, who started out as a second assistant director on both “Titanic” and “Avatar”, directed his first feature film with “Final Destination 5”, a movie which tied up that series’ storyline very satisfactorily and with “Into the Storm”, he proves, much like his mentor James Cameron, that he’s more than capable of helming a big-budget spectacle, full of breathtaking and astonishing special effects while interlaced with the appropriate character development that we have come to expect from a big-budget summer movie.

Own “Into the Storm” on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and Digital HD on November 18th

The studio also sent along this interview.

Q: What is it like directing actors with the added distraction of extreme weather elements?

A: It was a real challenge to get a performance with all the distracting noises of the wind machines and rain towers. The loud noise of the equipment made communication very difficult and I had to rely on hand signals. One advantage to all the wind and rain is that it gave the actors something real to play against when shooting with green screens.

Q: What is the most exciting part about directing high-energy, intense films?

A: The most exciting thing about directing high-energy, intense films is taking the audience into a world that feels real.

Q: What can you tell us about Titus and how similar is it to a real storm chasing vehicle?

A: The Titus was designed by David Sanderford and has the same functions that a real storm chasing vehicle would have. The most important features are two hydraulic outriggers that can fire spikes into the ground to hold the vehicle in place during the 100 mile per hour winds of a Tornado. The Titus also has a motorized turret that allows a camera to photography a 360 degree view of any severe weather systems.

Q: What special features can we expect to see on the Blu-ray / DVD?

A: The Blu-ray/DVD for “Into the Storm” will have several behind the scenes features showing how we were able to realistically recreate the weather conditions of a tornado. It also has a segment where world famous storm chaser Reed Timmer explains all of the types of tornados in or film and how they compare to the real ones that he has chased.

Q: What interested you in this story and joining as Director?

A: What attracted me to “Into the Storm” is being able to take the audience right into the center of a tornado. To experience what it is like to see and hear the unimaginable power that a tornado can unleash. I also wanted to explore how different people react to such an extreme event.

Q: How is Into the Storm different from previous tornado movies?

A: “Into the Storm” benefits from the advances in visual effects over the years so the tornados look much more realistic. It also differs from other tornado movies in that we are not just following storm-chasers – we have a diverse group of unrelated people who are thrust together during the adversity of the storm and we get to experience how each of the different people react under the pressure of the storm.

Q: How does the film mix big visual effects with a grounded human element?

A: You experience the tornados through the eyes of the main characters and thus you have a vested interest in what everyone does.

Q: You have an extensive background in visual effects. Tell us about what went into making this film look and feel real.

A: The most important thing to make this film look real was weeks and weeks of extensive research. I studied every single video of any severe weather and tornado footage I could find. Every major type of tornado was based on actual footage of real tornados. In addition to the visuals I insisted on having the sound feel as real as possible and that is where academy award winning sound supervisor Par Hallberg shined with his amazing soundscape. You really feel like you are in a tornado with the rumbling sound.

Q: Did the film require practical effects in addition to visual effects?

A: The films visual effects work so effective because they are a mix of practical physical effects such as wind machines and rain towers combined with the digital tornados and debris. For the last half of the film, almost every shot required rain and wind machines. We dropped a real truck in close proximity with Richard Armitage.

Q: How did the tornadoes act like characters in the film?

A: “Into the Storm” has several different types of tornados ranging from thing rope tornados, fire tornado to a large two mile wide wedge shaped tornado. Each of these tornados act like characters in that they have unique qualities that make them different.

Q: Why do you think audiences are so interested in disaster films?

A: People are always drawn to what scares them and they love to experience something that takes them on a thrill ride in the safety of movie going experience at home or in the theater.

James McDonald
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