The Movie Waffler First Look Review - THE WAVE | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - THE WAVE

the wave review
A lawyer’s perception of the world is completely altered after a dose of a hallucinogen on a night out.

Review by Musanna Ahmed

Directed by: Gille Klabin

Starring: Justin Long, Donald Faison, Tommy Flanagan, Sheila Vand, Katia Winter

the wave poster

Viewers like myself who are outside of the US won't be able to see The Wave on the big screen, but it's a lot more fun than its DTV label suggests.

The story of going on a transcendent drug trip is one we've seen many times before but the premise comes oven-ready with tension and a number of branching paths for the writer(s) to take us down - why else would the Black Mirror team have made it the subject of their first interactive feature?

the wave review

In addition to the inherent fun to be had, this film is about 20% better than it should be, thanks to the casting director, who assembles a medley of likeable actors including comedy's solid journeyman Justin Long, Scrubs favourite Donald Faison, Sons of Anarchy star Tommy Flanagan and Sheila Vand, best known for playing the titular character in new cult classic A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.

[ READ MORE: First Look Review - Lew Misérables ]

Frank (Long) is a lawyer loyal to the ethos of "work hard, play hard" and, at the end of one particularly good day, he celebrates the promotion of his high-spirited colleague Jeff (Faison). Over drinks, he meets Jeff's pals Theresa (Vand) and Natalie (Katia Winter). They make their way to a house party, wherein fur-coat-wearing drug dealer Aeolus (Flanagan) offers Frank and Theresa some dangerously potent stuff that zaps Frank through space and time back into his apartment. In one of the lazier clichés in a film with plenty of them, Frank's wife Cheryl (Sarah Minnich) thinks he spent the night cheating on her.

the wave review

The problem is, Frank can't stop tripping. His attempt at clawing out from psychedelia towards normalcy is interrupted again and again with bizarre trips that soon kick off a time-sensitive mission to pay back another drug dealer whom he inexplicably steals from. That dealer could kill someone just by his sheerly annoying presence, impossibly raising the stakes. Every 10 minutes or so, Frank is instantly transported to a new time and day, messing up his understanding of reality and his physical self - a bruised face and a sloppy tie (and even a hostile boss) resemble The Narrator's odd odyssey in Fight Club.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - Parasite ]

At some point, you check out of the storyline as the plot points become increasingly easy to telegraph - you know how a chase sequence will end, you know that plot armour will protect certain characters at gunpoint. Around the same time, the filmmakers become committed to imbuing their narrative with a philosophical subtext that I can only describe as blah.

the wave review

At that point, the impetus to continue The Wave is to relish editor Lana Wolverton's After Effects-heavy work - I would’ve assumed she worked on Travis Scott’s music videos considering her dazzling distortion of neonfilled visuals. And there’s the synthwave-adjacent sounds and Aaron Grasso's long dolly shots, all elements used in conjunction to suspend us in big moments of drug-fuelled euphoria and paranoia. It's hardly Uncut Gems - it's hardly even a gem - but it's a stylish, fast-paced and enjoyable ride, a guilt-free way to spend 90 minutes. Add half a star if you watch it stoned.

The Wave is on Canadian VOD January 21st. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

2020 movie reviews