The 5th Wave
by Lisa Dib
As slick and watchable as it is, The 5th Wave is not entirely sure what kind of movie it wants to be. Genre-wise it fits snugly in with other sci-fi alien invasion, defend-Earth-to-the-death, humankind-will-rise-again, type films, complete with all the explosions and gunfights you could hope for. It is in the tone - specifically that of lead character Cassie - that it becomes confused.
Directed by J Blakeson (The Disappearance of Alice Creed), with a screenplay by Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich, The Soloist), Akiva Goldsman (I Am Legend, The Da Vinci Code) and Jeff Pinker (Lost, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), The 5th Wave is based on the young novel of the same name by Rick Yancey. Humanity is being systematically wiped out by “The Others” - whose ship looks a helluva lot like that in District 9 - in a series of ‘waves’ of destruction. Power is taken out, disease is spread, tidal waves flood the cities. It’s a visual feast; the destruction feels quite vivid. Cassie (Chloe Moretz) is drawn into the chaos with her family: her father (Ron Livingston), mother (Maggie Siff) and little brother Sam (Zackary.)
The action plays out like any other alien flick: humanity makes brave attempts to survive the oncoming genocidal warfare, amongst subterfuge and confusion. Cassie and Sam are separated, and the film follows her attempts to find and rescue him. It also simultaneously follows the armed forces’ gathering of a child army to help defeat the alien invasion, led by Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber); coincidentally - although not terribly bizarre for a YA story - one of the few surviving children is Ben Parish (Nick Robinson) who was Cassie's big-time crush before the alien war. What starts out as a young woman’s harrowing survival story grows into a more typical shoot-'em-up action flick, complete with a difficult romance. Evan (Alex Roe) is our White Male Saviour, and has the acting cajones and charisma of a portobello mushroom. Honestly, I feel like the entire direction on his role was, “Be attractive, stare intently”. But Moretz is the real star of the show anyway, and her steely gaze, gung-ho determination and handiness with an assault rifle are pretty great to watch.
But the bearded bit of wood aside, it was more frustrating that Cassie’s journey was hijacked by men, with both Evan and Ben getting their ‘save the day’ on. I mean, what’s the point of a kickass female protagonist if the story gets taken over by boring dudes? Of course, this is not entirely the film’s fault: they were no doubt attempting to keep in with the book, one I admit I have not read. The fandom around the trilogy of novels would have been aghast if too much were changed, this is true, and I acknowledge that the film-makers wanted to retain what people have loved about the stories. Regardless, The 5th Wave is not bad, or offensive (Maika Monroe’s character hits a dude and tells him not to be sexist, which was satisfying to watch) but suffers the fate of being too much like everything else to compete. Alien invasion movies are nowadays a dime and dozen, so anything released into that camp needs to be damn good. The 5th Wave is a decent addition to the genre: well-directed, beautifully shot and well-paced to keep your attention; hopefully the sequels will bring something truly unique to the genre.
The 5th Wave is out now.