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Friday, February 5, 2016

The 5th Wave 2016 * * * Stars

Director: J Blakeson
Year: 2016
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Liev Schreiber

Chloe Grace Moretz is all over the place these days. In fact, she's about to show up in four movies via the year 2016. Her latest release is The 5th Wave and it regretfully got shuffled into the month of January (never a good sign). Critics everywhere have been comparing it to Twilight and/or The Hunger Games flicks. Having never seen anything from those sets of franchises, I couldn't make a supposed juxtaposition. I as a critic, got a Maze Runner/Day After Tomorrow vibe more than anything else. And here I was expecting to have something to tide me over until Independence Day: Resurgence came out. Eh, no biggie.

Anyway, with its themes of quarantined isolation and genocidal deception, The 5th Wave has a rather small budget even for a sci-fi, action thriller (a poultry $38 million). It shows. "Wave" is about countless alien invasions but doesn't give you enough visually, to think that any alien species really exist. I mean yeah they're disguised as humans but you can hardly tell. And despite a few spaceships roaming the sky and one giant mothership coming out of some cumulus clouds, this is more a military affair than an extraterrestrial glop fest. What can I tell ya, I dug it anyway. The storytelling is taut, the troupers are ones you generally care about, the action sequences are quite nifty, and the 80's-style soundtrack is seemingly legit. January "junk?" Thankfully no.

Containing an intense, dystopian flavor (even for something rated PG-13), featuring a romantic interest in the form of a half-human, taking place in Ohio, filmed entirely in Atlanta, GA, and based on a novel of the same name (written by Rick Yancey), The Fifth Wave throws buildup out the window as it contains two important flashbacks (one of them having varying camera angles) plus the adage of top billed actress Chloe Grace Moretz narrating Earth's cordial demise. The Moretz character is named Cassie Sullivan. She's your typical high school kid. She goes to parties, she meets boys, she has close friends, and she studies hard. This is all status quo until a plethora of alien attacks off her parents, separate her from her brother (Sam Sullivan played by Zackary Arthur), and force her to become a gun-wielding badass. You see these aliens are in the form of an army called the Others. And they are headed by a threatening colonel named Vosch (played by Liev Schreiber). From what I've gathered, Vosch's chief motivation is to eliminate all human adults and then have their children go through military training so that they get into gunfights while deceptively killing off each other. This plot point was one of many startling revelations in "Wave" that I didn't pick up initially.

Being the best film of the year so far, the only thing that bugged me about The Fifth Wave though was its need to cut corners in terms of special effects shots. In my mind I kept saying, "this isn't an art film, it's suppose to be a popcorn-munching blockbuster." Oh well. What are ya gonna do.

All in all, The 5th Wave ends with the disappearance of one of its supporting actors. And there are also a couple of final moments involving the protagonists hanging out at a campfire. These pointers are there to indicate that a sequel might be in the works. Based on "Wave's" lukewarm box office take and critical ribbing, I don't know if that will happen. If it does, I'll happily buy a ticket. What the heck. My rating: 3 stars.

Of note: In The 5th Wave, director J Blakeson implores some cool, gun disarming scenes, he shoots a tidal wave sequence in which the cities of New York and London turn to rubble, and he casts an unrecognizable Mario Bello to play a Nazi-like sergeant (of the Others) named Reznik. Talk about a woman having a bad hair and makeup day. Yeesh!

Written by Jesse Burleson

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