In the recent wave of YA dystopian films, it was only a matter of time before Sony got their piece, this time coming in the form of Rick Yancey’s novel The 5th Wave. Instead of children battling it out to the death or navigating a maze, the premise is fairly simple. Aliens invade Earth in several waves leaving main girl Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) separated from her family and must set out an long journey through the same set piece with hunk of the month Evan (Alex Roe). The film packs a lot into its 2 hour run time and while some of it feels a little rushed, the half hearted attempt at a love story feels out of place and ultimately brings the movie from franchise starter to a bit of a fizzer.
When a spaceship appears over the USA, it sends the world (mainly America) into a panic, high school student Cassie (Moretz) and her family stay put as the alien’s send 4 waves of attacks to kill the masses of humanity. First an EMP blast, then earthquakes, bird flu and floods, when Cassie and her family are forced into a refugee camp, an interruption by Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber) sees them all separated and Cassie must walk 90 miles (yeah I’m serious!) to find her family, while avoiding the aliens who have come down off their ship. Oh and if that wasn’t complicated enough, they look like humans so identifying them is near impossible.
This film relies heavily on its cast to carry the story and this was a smart decision. Moretz is mesmerising as the lead character who transitions from a beer drinking cheerleader to survivor family girl. Schreiber’s military Colonel is generic and a bit of a wash, but can be forgiven as he doesn’t really have that many scenes. Roe plays the hunk of the month well, with enough dazzling white teeth and ripped back muscles to give any second thought to his acting ability. The real stars of this are Ben Parish/Zombie (Nick Robinson) and Sam (Zachary Arthur) whose on screen chemistry shines through the sub-par script in the final act.
Special effects wise you may leave the film disappointed, while I was hoping for big budget effects, I was given a TV quality flood scene that was a let down. In terms of aliens themselves because of the “they look like us” story, we never actually see what they look like in their true form.
The cinematography in this film however is above what you would expect from a YA film, the transitions and angles have been given extra attention and helps create the feeling of isolation and confusion (even if Moretz is running through the same forest set for an hour!). The brutality of the “trust noone” environment is established early in the film, but the introduction of humour in the final act trips this up and it the finale falls flat on its feet.
Overall this movie is a mixed bag for me, I walked out of it saying I enjoyed it, but after reflection found myself saying “Did I really enjoy it?” the answer is somewhat. If you enjoy these type of films with an alien twist then this is the film for you, it is a good dose of escapism for 2 hours and while it may not ignite a franchise, it is enough to solidify Moretz as a lead actress and help us get excited for Independence Day 2.
Review by Alaisdair Leith