Force Majeure has a thought-provoking concept that shocks the audience and the characters involved. Writer/director Ruben Östlund then proceeds to run his movie around in circles until its green in the face. It’s a process he continues to repeat until that once interesting premise transforms into an exhausting, ineffective tale.
The concept: the ideal family vacations to a picturesque resort. It’s hinted the husband is business-oriented, so this time away from his job should be relaxing. Early into their trip, an avalanche occurs while they grab a bite to eat on the chalet’s balcony. Instead of sticking by his wife and children, the husband books it only to sheepishly return once the powder settles. Force Manjeure wrestles with whether the husband’s gut instinct was a normal survival reaction, or a telling selfish gesture.
There’s no doubting the fascinating appeal of this morality debate. It’s a challenge that should have the audience conversing afterwards, trying to boil down a verdict. Instead of feeling those inquisitive instincts, Östlund’s film left my head rather quickly. It didn’t leave me itching for answers or hanging on in suspense. My eyelids were heavy, my brain locked up, and I emotionlessly watched this long movie do nothing with this platter full of delectable intrigue.
Force Manjeure is being sold as a comedy, although I didn’t laugh once. If there’s dark humour in the film, it’s far too dry to pick up on. It’s easier to take in Force Manjeure as a somber drama since the dynamic between the family feels very real. That said, it’s a hard film to feel any emotion towards because of how broadly Östlund has written these characters. Force Manjeure is a classic example of competent actors trying to overcome a flawed, sprawling screenplay. With their commendable performances, they pass the test, but it’s not enough to recoup Östlund’s dropped opportunity to say something interesting or sly about parental roles and marital faithfulness.
We continue to see the same people wince when the troubling circumstance is mentioned and the same people saddened by the realization. Östlund succeeds in authenticating the bleak upset, which all Swiss filmmakers seem to strangely excel in doing. But, the filmmaker fails to show the audience any progression even though it seems he thinks he’s doing that by lingering on the turmoil. Just because Östlund doesn’t shy away from the distress at hand with his characters stewing with reexamination, it doesn’t mean the film is saying something worthwhile.
Another vacationing couple enters the film, which you would think opens the story up to another perspective. However, the inattentive screenwriter turns another opportunity into a lemon by simply making these new characters into clones of the leading cast.
Save for some key performances, a great start to a promising climax, and cinematography that Stanley Kubrick would approve of, Force Manjeure is tedious and only grows more redundant over its maxed-out runtime.