One of the last gasps of the original disaster cycle.
1979 was a bad year for the disaster genre. There was the dreary City on Fire; the unnecessary Beyond the Poseidon Adventure; the risible Meteor; and the unbearably dull Hurricane. All disaster movies have essentially the same plot framework - that of an opening stretch which introduces varied characters with personal back stories; a middle stretch detailing the threat of a catastrophe; and a climax in which the characters have to cope after the occurrence of the said catastrophe. In Hurricane, we don't even know that a hurricane is coming until it arrives. There's no clue within the story. In fact, this is barely a disaster movie at all.... more a story of forbidden love and racial tension which climaxes with a disaster-movie-inspired sequence. The problem with the film is that the first 90 minutes are incredibly dull. We don't meet disparate characters; we don't suspensefully await the arrival of the hurricane; we don't even get an involving interplay among the people filling the screen. Rather, we are forced to endure a painfully uninteresting romance which blossoms between an uninteresting couple under the ruthless, disapproving gaze of an uninteresting tyrant.
In the 1920s, a beautiful young woman named Charlotte Bruckner (Mia Farrow) arrives in Pago Pago, a Pacific island under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Navy and lorded over by her uncompromisingly cruel father Captain Charles Bruckner (Jason Robards). The Captain hopes Charlotte will court Jack Sanford (Timothy Bottoms), a reliable young sailor who works for him, but Charlotte instead takes a fancy to native Mattangi (Dayton Ka'ne). There follows an almighty to-do, during which the enraged Captain tries to imprison Mattangi on a very trivial charge, bringing about a racial tension between the natives and the colonialists which is resolved by the arrival of a devastating hurricane.
After his Swedish masterpieces The Emigrants and The New Land, director Jan Troell made two awful attempts to make his name in America, firstly missing the target with the dismal Zandy's Bride, and hammering a further nail into his own coffin with this snoozer. (Roman Polanski probably breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing this film, as he was originally lined up to direct). Robards - usually a vibrant, invigorated screen presence - looks visibly subdued in his role here, while Farrow increasingly seems the wrong actress for her part. Even if you were to fast-forward through the tedious build-up to the hurricane sequence itself you'd still be disappointed. Although the special effects are impressive (at $22 million they should be!), the story-telling during the big, destructive finale is terribly muddled, and it's not very clear what's going on behind the lashing rain and thundering waves which wash across the screen. Hurricane is a disaster.
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