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Film Review: “The Wave” Is an Overambitious Step into Nonsense

Written by: Hannah Tran | January 16th, 2020

Film poster: “The Wave”

The Wave (Gille Klabin, 2019) 1 out of 4 stars.

The Wave is the type of movie that you feel you know exactly who made it and exactly who they made it for, and, likely, you even know some of these people. Even more likely, these are the type of people you might have only known in a setting like middle school, a place they seemed to solely exist in and have solely existed in since perhaps the conception of middle school itself. For Gille Klabin’s directorial debut, a stoner-comedy-meets-sci-fi jumble about a lawyer on the verge of promotion who goes to a party and partakes in a hallucinogenic drug that appears to allow him to defy the laws of the universe, all the genre conventions so popular amongst those crowds are in full swing, as well as the shoddy logic and nonsensical philosophy that only they could consider deep.

While the simple setup provides an easy and engaging familiarity, its overambition leads to many of its greatest pitfalls. It takes too much time to really get started, and once it does, it wants to be much smarter than it is. It has a make-the-rules-as-you-go logic that, while feeling in line with the actual characters, does nothing for the sake of creating its own comprehensible universe. The philosophy 101 lesson it tries to use as a moral backbone, furthermore, only distracts from the generally fun and watchable shenanigans the characters get themselves into, most of its muddled messages being verbally thrown at you until the credits roll. And the drug-induced visions our lead is forced to undergo have even less subtlety, looking like they’re shot using the Apple Photo Booth filters that nobody wanted to use even when Apple Photo Booth filters were fun and trendy.

Sheila Vand in THE WAVE ©Epic Pictures

And while Justin Long provides the strongest and, arguably, one of the only watchable performances amongst the cast, the lead character is so drastically unlikable that many of the things that happen to him feel well-deserved. Moreover, the men he knows and meets never surpass being shallow archetypes, and the women are never utilized beyond being a personal annoyance to him or a means to his narrative end. They each merely end up feeling like the shells of characters from other, likely better films that came before. While there are many marks of a talented and knowledgeable director here, with its informed use of camera movement and angles and its well-structured sense of urgency, The Wave is never truly able to surpass its middle-school level premise, nor the intelligence level that comes with it.


Hannah Tran is a film critic and filmmaker from Las Vegas, Nevada. Hannah works as a film screener for the Las Vegas Film Festival and publishes an independent zine focused on highlighing Asian American filmmaking.

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