By: Trevor Chartrand
Director Gille Klabin hits a surprising home run with The Wave, a fast-paced, drug-fueled, comedy/thriller with an unexpectedly cathartic conclusion. It’s a film rich in tone and atmosphere, similar to the time-slipping (500) Days of Summer or even Tim Burton’s whimsical Big Fish. The movie is set in an enriched, highly-detailed world that would require multiple viewings to discover each layer of creative foreshadowing, and each hidden easter egg.
The Wave tells the story of mild-mannered corporate attorney Frank (Justin Long), a literal everyman who’s become bored with his routine life. In an effort to be more spontaneous, he attends a college party with his best friend Jeff (Donald Faison), where he meets – and is immediately taken with – a young woman named Theresa (Sheila Vand). After taking a mysterious drug that’s offered to him, Frank awakens with no memory of the night before, only to discover that Theresa is missing. In the trippy adventure that follows, Frank struggles to deal with an angry wife, a career-making presentation, and the search for a kidnapped girl – all while under the bizarre effects of a hallucinogenic drug that appears to have him slipping backwards and forwards in time.
There’s no doubt about it, this film is beautiful to look at. The cinematography, visual effects and editing are perfectly married to create an eye-catching movie with a bright color palette. The Wave is a feast for the eyes, with an incredibly polished, streamlined neon look akin to Thor: Ragnarok. Kudos to the creative team, including the art department, for creating such a vivid world.
The cast is strong and effective, with Justin Long playing the relatable everyman role with above-average skill – nothing we haven’t seen him accomplish before, but a great performance nevertheless. The standout performances, however, are the oddball characters Frank runs into on his journey, including a drug dealer channeling The Big Lebowski’s The Dude (Tommy Flanagan), and a seemingly omnipotent, wise bum (Jon Kristian Moore) on the streets. These wackier characters contrast Long’s straight-man in the just the right ways to make for some bizarre, and comedic sequences.
Writer Carl W. Lucas’ script is a lot of fun, especially with a protagonist who’s always three steps behind the narrative. The viewer is right there with Frank every step of the way, playing catch-up and desperately trying to fill in the gaps. It’s a great strategy to maintain a fast pace and keep the audience’s attention rapt and unwavering. The narrative is highly entertaining, with a surprising emotional punch at the end, however the quick pace could also be seen as misdirection – essentially existing to mask a few narrative gaps. To its detriment, there’s also a lot pseudo-philosophical mumbo jumbo buried in the film that does not add much merit; merely an attempt to make the film appear to be more intellectual than it actually is.
The Wave’s greatest strength is its use of genre-bending visual storytelling, and the unique approach it takes to what would otherwise be a very simple story. The film goes by fast and offers plenty of entertainment value – as long as you’re not thinking too hard about the concepts. Director Klabin and his cinematographer Aaron Grasso have constructed a detailed psychedelic world and a wonderful viewing experience. It appears to be early in both their feature film careers, and I look forward to what comes next from both of them.
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Trevor Chartrand: @OhHaiTrebor