Storm (SE - DVD R2)
Gabe Powers is handed a little silver box, but no one will tell him what's in it...
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DD (Eric Ericson) is a loner that coasts through his easy going life. He's not the nicest guy you'll ever meet, but he probably won't punch you in the face either. Lova (Eva Röse) is some kind of superhero, and has fought her way through Hell and back to get her hands on a mysterious silver box. When Helena meets DD his life is thrown into chaos, and it seems he may have the key to opening the box within him. Pursued by mysterious warriors, DD must make some hard choices.
Intelligent Sci-Fi thrillers are hard. Messing with reality on film is even harder. Storm is a film that succeeds simply on this ambition. Its grasp exceeds its reach constantly, but as a film lover you may find yourself rooting for it. The problem with reviewing the film is that in weighing its pros and cons, while contextualizing it and comparing it to other features, I stand to give away some of what is best left a blindly viewed plot. I'll do my best not to spoil it for everyone.
Storm belongs in the same sub-genre of modest head-trip thrillers like David Cronenberg's eXistenZ, and Alejandro Amenábar's Abre Los Ojos (remade as Vanilla Sky by Cameron Crowe), both quality films that fall apart when they try to answer too many questions. There's a little Donnie Darko here as well, and like Donnie Darko, Storm has a problem of taking itself a little too seriously. Off the top of my head, the only alternate reality 'Sci-Fi' films I can think of that managed to be successful even in explaining themselves are Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Wes Craven's original Nightmare on Elm Street. The Matrix sort of counts, but the reality vs. dream world/virtual reality aspect is really solved after the first act.
Storm starts out very strong, in introducing its two main characters it stands as some kind of Trainspotting/ American Psycho meets Matrix oddity. DD is amusingly established as a loveable ass, and Helena as a Trinity-esque ass kicker. By the end of the first of three acts the film loses itself a bit in pseudo-psychological darkness, as DD is forced to deal with a past he has forgotten. It was at this point that I abandoned hope for the film I wanted to see and let the filmmakers take me where they wanted to.
At the start of the third act there is something of a twist, and I my hopes were once again raised, but this turn is too abrupt. The film may've worked better if it was longer, or perhaps if it was even more of a ‘to be continued’ then it already is. Thankfully, the film doesn't over explain itself, but it also abandons a few of its more interesting aspects along the way. The whole thing wraps up far too fast, and the answers the filmmakers are willing to give up are a little too simple for my taste. I have a horrible feeling that this was all just a simple morality play.
The look of Storm is fairly extreme, yet the action scenes manage to be different, visually and emotionally. They aren't as spectacular as those of Matrix, or other martial arts inspired fight flicks, but are based in some sort of reality. This is special because this isn't a story about fighting spectacularly, and most of the big action scenes are actually cut short in favour of plot development. There are signs of other films, but the directors manage to create a look that belongs entirely to this one.
The film was apparently very popular in its native country, which will hopefully lead to some sequels. There are two directions a sequel could take the way I see it—either DD has more adventures in him, or he's entirely incidental and Lova will move on to another 'subject'. The film is flawed, but so was Night Watch, and that film was made better by its sequel Day Watch. If Storm 2 ( Stormier, Storm with a Vengeance?) could expand successfully upon the ideas of it's predecessor, Storm could likely become a better film in comparison. If this is the end of the story, then I'm afraid all we've got is a very well made curiosity.
At times this disc has one of the finest video transfers I've ever seen. Detail is impeccably sharp and the images are very realistic. During these high points I couldn't even find any blocking or compression noise in during fast motion and darkness. Later on, and throughout the feature, the detail levels falter, and problems arise in the form of blocky blotches. Red seems to be the offending colour, and a middle film scene in a dance club is easily the most problematic in the entire film. Warm colours in general don't fair as well as muted and cool colours. Overall though, I'm very impressed.
Here's another one of those rare DVDs where the difference between the DTS and Dolby Digital tracks is actually measurable. The Dolby track is nice, but the DTS track is very aggressive, not to mention loud. There's a nice play of silence and fury here, and though the jumps in musical score are a bit on the cheesy side, but they sound great. The track is bassy without warbling or buzzing, and even at high volumes separate tracks are discernable. It's not quite reference level, but this is due to the content of the film and its needs, not the track's overall quality.
The only extra on this single disc version is a director's commentary, which is unfortunately in Swedish only.
Though not exactly a classic, or even a genre affirming success, Storm is an intriguing mix of hipster comedy, comic book adaptation, reality bending Sci-Fi, and psychological horror. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but perhaps that's where the film's true value lies. It's not going to change your life, but fans of the Matrix and Night Watch series, along with reality bending thrillers like Donnie Darko and Abre Los Ojos may get a kick out of the film's lofty ambitions.
You can purchase this and other imports from the good folks at Xploitedcinema.com
Review by Gabriel Powers
Release Date: 16th August 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: DTS 5.1 Swedish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Swedish
Subtitles: Swedish, Finnish, English
Extras: Director Comentary
Easter Egg: No
Director: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Cast: Eric Ericson, Eva Röse, Jonas Karlsson
Genre: Sci-Fi and Thriller
Length: 110 minutes
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