Written by: Matt Patti | March 16th, 2023
Supercell (Herbert James Winterstern, 2023) 3 out of 4 stars.
Every year, extreme weather ravages much of our lovely planet, leaving destruction in its wake. Hurricanes, blizzards, and tsunamis cause widespread damage, but these storms can be seen coming from miles away, and most of the time alerts are sent out well in advance to those who might be affected. However, there is one weather phenomenon that cannot be predicted as easily: tornadoes.
Tornadoes may not last as long as a hurricane, per se, but the suddenness of a tornado’s touchdown is what makes it perhaps the scariest of all extreme weather. This is also, perhaps, why it is a favorite of storm chasers, those deliberate pursuers of extreme weather phenomena. These people can be thrill-seekers, scientists, or a mix of both, but regardless of their reasons for pursuing a storm, they put their lives on the line every time they do. Director Herbert James Winerstern’s film Supercell revolves around a family of storm chasers who encounter a supercell: a storm system that produces severe thunderstorms and sustained rotating winds caused by a prolonged updraft that results in—you guessed it—extremely dangerous tornadoes.
In the film, William Brody (Daniel Diemer, The Half of It), a teenage boy who helps his mother clean houses for work, is looking for more in life. His father was a legendary storm chaser who met an unfortunate end thanks to a supercell system, but William wants nothing more than to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a storm chaser himself. One day, William receives a mysterious package in the mail. Inside the package is his father’s journal, with all of his notes and findings from years of storm chasing. Elated, William looks at the return address on the package, and decides to take a trip to meet the person who sent him the package: his father’s former partner, Roy Cameron (Skeet Ulrich, Scream). However, William finds that Roy is no longer chasing storms for science, but rather is a driver for a tour company that takes tourists storm chasing. Roy decides to let William attend one of the tours, which makes him ecstatic. However, William might get to see more than he bargained for.
Supercell surprises viewers right out of the gate, as all possible preconceived notions of a cheap storm flick are thrown out the window with impressive technical aspects. The greatest of these is the film’s impressive, entrancing music. The score is used heavily throughout, and thankfully it’s a great one. Composer Corey Wallace (Unsheltered) does a fantastic job creating an emotional, resonant score that evokes the feeling of some of John Williams’ classics.
The cinematography, too, is quite stunning, with some beautiful horizons captured, with and without storm clouds, and some intriguing camera movement in certain scenes. The sound design excels as well, as the film mixes together layers of sound creating a perfect ambience and environment for peaceful segments as well as for intense and thrilling scenes. Everything comes together to instill a sense of wonder and excitement in the viewer, with a classic cinematic feel akin to Jurassic Park. In fact, Winterstern’s directorial style very much resembles Spielberg.
Though the film is very well-made technically, it does fall short in one aspect. The main (human) character of the film, William, is a bit underwhelming. William is written as a very generic teen boy who is at first depressed and angsty but is a dreamer who wants more excitement in life. We’ve seen this type of character in many other films; however, William is much less compelling than some of these other characters we’ve seen, and Daniel Diemer’s mediocre, uninspired performance only adds salt to the wound. Also, Diemer mumbles far too much when reciting dialogue, making it a bit difficult to hear what he’s saying, especially over the surrounding storm sounds that are present for most of the movie.
As unfortunate as it is that the film’s central character is not so engaging, it surprisingly does not take much enjoyment away from the film. Ulrich is impressive as Roy Cameron and Alec Baldwin (Chick Fight) is effective as tour operator Zane Rodgers. Plus, I’d argue that William isn’t even the main character of the film, the supercell is … and the supercell shows up big time.
The conclusion of the film is quite intense and very well done, wrapping up in a satisfying way. As rare as it is for me to admit this, sometimes a film’s technical prowess can overshadow a bland main character, so long as some surrounding characters also pick up the slack, which is exactly what happens here. Supercell impresses far more than I thought it would, and is quite honestly one of the best storm thrillers I’ve seen in quite some time.