By Josh Reilly B.
Survival movies have become increasingly popular in recent years as Hollywood has lured some of the biggest names in the industry to join the genre, with Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, and James Franco all making the foray into films like 127 Hours, Everest, and more. Some of these have been received better than others, with 127 Hours garnering awards attention in the year it released, but it’s proven to be a successful enough formula for studios to continue to revisit survival films consistently.
The latest in the genre is Infinite Storm, which released in the U.S. this weekend and stars Naomi Watts, Denis O’Hare, Billy Howie, and Eliot Sumner. Directed by Malgorzata Szumowska, Infinite Storm follows Watts as Pam Bales, a nurse and research guide making her way through the White Mountains National Park in New Hampshire as the whole area begins to be covered by snow, ice, and overall treacherous conditions. Despite Bales’ vast experience climbing a mountain such as this, the weather conditions prove to be a tremendous, life-threatening challenge for the character. In turn, it’s a suspenseful and nail-biting viewing experience as Bales suffers injuries like a possible broken leg or ankle, cuts and bruises, and more. The storm causes the sky to go dark even as it’s only the early hours of the afternoon, meaning Bales struggles to find her way out as the conditions only worsen with every passing second. On the way, the obstacles become even more challenging when she encounters a young man passed out with frostbite and who would almost certainly die if she continued her journey to safety without bringing him with. Bales rescues the man, who she names John, and he becomes her co-partner on this dangerous expedition.
Infinite Storm has an interesting enough premise, even if it’s unoriginal, at least to a certain extent. Audiences have seen disaster and survival movies before, and this is ultimately one of many. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing to simply join the genre rather than redefine it or change it greatly, but it means the Naomi Watts led film has to excel greatly because of the presence of the many other titles in the sphere. In a way, it does, as there’s a solid amount of attention to detail throughout; for example, Bales strips John of all of his clothes to prevent him from dying of hypothermia, something that the average viewer wouldn’t know is a survival technique when in such conditions but shows the research that the screenwriters put into their work.
The film is also expertly shot, arguably the highlight of the film alongside Naomi Watts’ performance. The direction of Szumowska is clear and shows the scope of what Bales is facing in these tense moments, which helps the viewers become even more immersed in the thriller. There are some wonderful shots seen here too, and the attention to detail on the visuals is an achievement in the film. In the modern day, debates surrounding major movies’ visuals and directing are constant, as some label blockbuster films as looking bland or stale, but this can’t be said of Infinite Storm, in which the filmmakers clearly dedicated a great deal of time and care to this aspect of their picture.
Naomi Watts’ stellar performance in the lead role is the glue that brings this film together, as the English-born actress adds an extra level of realism to make the survival aspects feel more grounded and believable. It’s easy for a film in this genre to spiral into this unbelievable territory, even if it’s not a true story or even grounded in realism in the first place, which in turn can take viewers out of the experience. More recent titles like 2012 are prime examples of this, as John Cusack’s disaster movie about the end of the world is inherently unrealistic (despite some believing that the ancient myth would come true) but still fails to captivate its audience as it focuses more on large-scale explosions than it does on the characters. The same can’t be said of Infinite Storm, which is inherently singularly focused on Watts for the entirety of its runtime, and this gives the actress the time to shine and excel in the role. A worth mention must go to the fact that Watts performed many of her own stunts in this movie, in what is an incredibly demanding role physically.
Without spoilers, Infinite Storm features a slightly odd and jarring ending, but it doesn’t threaten to derail the film in any meaningful way. Beyond that, the film’s inherent unoriginality, ironic given that it’s based on a true story, is the major flaw throughout. Again, it’s far from a crime for a film like this to steer away from reinventing the wheel when it comes to its genre, but it does make Infinite Storm predictable in nature and almost too familiar at times, as if one has seen it before.
Infinite Storm is by no means a groundbreaking film, but it succeeds greatly due to a solid-enough screenplay, fine directing, and a brilliant performance from Naomi Watts.
Images courtesy of Bleecker Street