The Wave posits the inevitability of the natural disaster of its title -- that, as with Californians and "the Big One," every Norwegian in the wave's fjord-side path is living on borrowed GMT+1 time. Our hero is an anxious geologist at an early-warning center named Kristian (Kristoffer Joner). If his calculations are correct (spoiler: they are), only he knows that a rockslide-triggered tsunami will soon ravage the Åkneset mountainside. Roar Uthaug's film is more of a slow burn than its Hollywood counterparts, devoting its entire first half to Kristian's vain attempts at preventing the waters from rising. His inevitable failure is signaled by a siren that echoes through the mountains so ominously you'll think Ragnarök has come.
The Wave is less a conventional disaster movie than a movie that happens to be about a disaster, a small distinction that makes a world of difference when it comes time to care what happens to any of these people; this is one of few films of its kind in which you're in no rush to see the full force of nature's wrath. (Even if you are, the event is so localized that there are no obligatory shots of iconic landmarks being washed away.) It's all about the before and after, both of which prove more riveting than the 85-meter-high wave itself -- not that it isn't a sight to behold.