Film Review: ‘The 5th Wave’

Directed by J Blakeson

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Liev Schreiber, Nick Robinson, Alex Roe

Original Release Date: January 2016

Review by Miriam Atkinson

The 5th Wave is the latest entry into the young adult dystopian future genre. It is a film adaptation of Rick Yancey’s novel, the first in a trilogy, also called The 5th Wave. This sci-fi action thriller follows teenager Cassie (Chloë Grace Moretz) as she tries to survive in a world decimated by alien invaders and reunite with her younger brother.

In a clever plot device the aliens are camouflaged to look and act exactly like humans. Firstly it is clever for the film as it reduces the spending cost of the film’s budget, yet more importantly it also brings intense undertones of paranoia that are played throughout The 5th Wave. The audience is effectively placed in Cassie’s shoes as together we try to work out who can be trusted and who is an alien in disguise. There are enough plot twists and jump scares to keep the audience alert and entertained throughout.

The 5th Wave features an ensemble of young actors within its cast. With most of the film’s action revolving around them, all of the young actors do a superb job in both their own group scenes and in scenes opposite older established actors such as Liev Schreiber. Particular praise most go to Moretz and Nick Robinson who successfully carry the emotional elements and urgency of the plot throughout the film.

However in places The 5th Wave does struggle, most notably in its opening half. The film puts pressure on itself to explain the dystopian world and the alien invasion to the audience as quickly as possible. It relies on a lengthy voice over that feeds the audience the information we need to know. The invasion occurs with five waves of attack (hence the title of the film) and the film uses the voice over narration to rapidly take the plot through the first four waves in order to arrive at the main story. However this style left me wishing more time had been spent on the different waves in order to see the gradual regression of society rather than arriving suddenly at the action point. For this reason perhaps the story would have been better told as a television show as this would allow the time needed to explore these elements of the plot in more detail.

I admit I have not yet read Yancey’s novel and I am interested to see how the two compare. In regards to the film, while it does enough to keep me interested I didn’t feel it added much to the young adult dystopia genre or to the realms of science-fiction. It is a good film in its own right but The 5th Wave is unfortunately overshadowed by the films that have come before it.

*This review was originally published in the online magazine Cuckoo Review in February 2016*

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