Force Majeure Movie Review
When an avalanche strikes, don't run away, leaving your wife and children to fend for themselves. This is the lesson one man learns in Force Majeure (Turist), an intriguing character study about a momentary, instinctual action that triggers a snowball effect.
The avalanche itself has no physical implications for the characters. But its force hits hard, resulting in a drama that poses interesting questions and subjects the audience to a series of increasingly painful scenes... Not bad scenes, but ones that are painful for the characters as they attempt to dissect and analyze what has happened.
Beautifully presented by director Ruben Östlund, Force Majeure is quietly captivating. A Swedish film, the movie is set at a gorgeous ski lodge and Östlund takes full advantage of the scenery--both externally as well as within the intimacy of hotel rooms--to hold your attention even as he subjects the audience to two hours of dialogue about seemingly unimportant stuff.
The movie could have and should have been shorter; as beautiful as the film is, Östlund sometimes gets too wound up with the gorgeous cinematography--at the price of pace and entertainment value. His approach is occasionally too subtle, his metaphors or underlying nuance too... Metaphorical and nuanced for their own good. As a result, some of the scenes, like one where Tomas goes searching for his wife in a snow fog, that doesn't connect in the way Östlund intended.
The lead characters are also hard to relate to. Neither Tomas nor Ebba are especially likable; while Ebba's frustrations with her husband's actions are understandable, her fixation on them and her willingness to embarrass the man repeatedly are hard to accept given a lack of context to the broader issues with their relationship. Tomas is just so quiet it's hard to comprehend what he is thinking; Johannes Kuhnke's performance isn't strong enough to pull it off such a complicated character.
Though far from perfect, Force Majeure is an intriguing and oddly satisfying character study. It isn't for everyone--many will find it boring and without purpose--but it is a well made, beautiful and alluring film nonetheless. But men, if an avalanche ever strikes near you, remember to try and save your wife... Not your phone.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.