Twister (1996)
Twister (1996)

Genre: Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.

Release Date: May 10th, 1996 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Jan de Bont Actors: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, Jami Gertz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Ruck, Sean Whalen, Todd Field, Wendle Josepher

 


 

“T

wister” is fast-paced and highly entertaining. It comes as no surprise that it’s directed by Jan de Bont, who previously helmed “Speed,” and written by Michael Crichton, who scripted “Jurassic Park” (“Twister” is also produced by Steven Spielberg). While the special effects are not as sharp by today’s standards, the whirlwind visuals are nevertheless adequately believable. Decent acting, mediocre dialogue (dozy familial drama always seems to creep into disaster movies), a rousing score by Mark Mancina, and idiosyncratic characters make “Twister” a stimulating film for the eyes and ears, provided that viewers don’t overanalyze the disputable reasons and methods of chasing down the dark side of nature.

Dr. Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) watched her father die at the hands of a brutally powerful tornado, but instead of fearing the deadly winds forever after, she devotes her life to researching them. Working to advance the detection technology for storms, she hopes to prevent further deaths at the hands of Mother Nature. Her ex-husband Bill (Bill Paxton) was also an expert in the field, but now he only wants the divorce papers signed so he can move on with his life as a weatherman. When he meets up with Jo, she reveals a device that the two had been working on, now finally realized and fully operational. Sucked into the moment and itching for a chance to try out “Dorothy,” the machine that could revolutionize tornado warnings and research, Bill joins Jo and her group of scientists for a wild tornado-chasing adventure.

To complicate matters in the melodrama department, Bill is joined by his fiancée Melissa (Jami Gertz), who is steadily realizing that Jo is still in love with Bill. As the group travels across the Oklahoma countryside chasing down ruinous funnel clouds, Bill and Jo continually put their lives in danger for the infinitesimal chance to get Dorothy to work – which requires the machine to be placed in the damage path of a tornado. They are also hindered by Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes), a rival scientist who is still clearly outmatched by Bill’s knack for predicting weather, despite obtaining corporate funding and much better equipment. As the squabbling former couple gets closer and closer to success with their device, the lethality of chasing twisters quickly becomes apparent.

The action and suspense make “Twister” more memorable and fun than the average disaster flick. When the daring duo takes on an F5 tornado (the most destructive kind), get caught up in high-speed car chases, and dodge flying cows, big rigs, and farm equipment, the intensity and thrills never cease. Borrowing methods from his acclaimed career as a cinematographer (with films like “Die Hard” and “The Hunt for Red October”), Jan de Bont ensures that the pacing never slows, the action choreography is nonstop, and that urgency and anticipation are always at the forefront of the story. While the romance between Jo and Bill frequently plays a role in their motives (and builds character development), it appropriately takes a back seat to the nerve-wracking havoc. Comedy relief is also present, most notably in a performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who, even in a smaller role, proves that he has talents well beyond the part he plays.

The special effects may not hold up over the years, with constant advances in technology continually outshining the early days of CG, but “Twister” handles seamless integration of the massive tornados into the backgrounds and sets with admirable precision. Where the film becomes questionable is in its technology – primarily with the reasoning behind the storm chasing crew’s decisions and the materials available to them. Even if “Twister” accurately portrays professional bad weather scientists, nearly all of their ideas appear largely unlikely. But, like “Speed,” the realism can be thwarted with awe-inspiring cinematic escapism and plenty of destruction.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10