Set in the present day, four waves of increasingly deadly attacks have left most of Earth decimated. Against a backdrop of fear and distrust, 16-year-old Cassie is on the run, desperately trying to save her younger brother. As she prepares for the inevitable and lethal 5th wave, Cassie meets a young man who may become her final hope.
The 5th Wave is the latest in young adult novel to film adaptations, in this case the novel being a science fiction story written by Rick Yancey, published as the first instalment of a trilogy. The film comes from director J Blakeson, in what is his second feature film, following on from 2009’s The Disappearance of Alice Creed.
The 5th Wave starts out delivering a lot of condensed exposition, it’s all packed into a relatively short time span and this throws the audience into the setting as it quickly details the landscape within which the story unfolds. It’s instantly recognisable as a novel adaptation and almost immediately feels like an abridged version of a more detailed story told elsewhere.
The film has an intriguing opening scenario and sets up an interesting hook that it unfortunately does little with. The first act comprises of a sobering and grounded tone to the film that elevates the drama, but unfortunately this sensibility isn’t maintained throughout the film. It descends into a mix of interesting story threads and clichéd sub plots which wind up being predictable and in some instances almost laughable.
To its credit the story is broadly interesting, and full of potential for a film series, it makes use of several main character arcs with a decent amount of story sleight of hand and intrigue that makes for an interesting scenario. What then tends to damage the film is a contrived romantic sub-plot, and predictable story beats that fill the second and final act, as well as some really clunky dialogue that undermines the more dramatic scenes.
Being the first in a trilogy it’s obvious from the outset that this instalment will raise more questions than it answers, however it finds a good story beat to close on allowing for the film to work well on its own basis while setting the foundation for future films. Sound familiar?
Chloe Graze Moretz tends to be the highlight performance, she delivers on both the action when it’s called for (which isn’t often) and is the more convincing side of the drama. It would have been good for her character’s material to be more comprehensive and explorative but she still managers to always deliver her character with a solid performance.
The film isn’t particularly demanding of Nick Robinson but he’s sound in his role, while Alex Roe is lumped with some awkward dialogue and a character arc that knows what it wants to do but without the detail, sophistication or even opportunity to make it convincing.
In terms of the action in the film there aren’t any great set pieces to dazzle audiences, it peaks with a scenario that is very familiar. Some of the smaller sequences earlier in the film work nicely but there’s nothing memorable about any of it.
The 5th Wave delivers mixed results, for everything that works there’s usually something that doesn’t, or a missed opportunity that it could have delved into more thoroughly. It displays some potential early on but ultimately doesn’t deliver on it.
I’m giving it 5 out of 10 stars, it’s in cinemas around Australia from Thursday 14th January 2016.