Thursday, June 2, 2011

Movie – Twister (1996)

Twister stars Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton as a pair of tornado scientists who also happen to be a separated husband and wife.  It also stars Cary Elwes as a rival scientist and Jami Gertz as Paxton’s character’s fiancée.  Look for early appearances by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Alexa Vega, too.

The movie was director Jan de Bont’s follow-up to Speed.  These two films seemed to set him on a career as a great action movie director, but he killed that by doing Speed 2: Cruise Control. 

Twister is not as good a movie as Speed, but it is still quite entertaining.  Hunt’s character became a scientist who studies tornados because her father was killed by one when she was just a little girl.  Paxton shared this passion with her, but finally burned out.  This caused a break for them.  He plans to have a nice, quiet career as a weatherman and wants to re-marry.  The only thing preventing this is that Hunt’s character never signed the official divorce papers.

They meet on an ominous weather day in Oklahoma tornado country.  As one twister after another keeps appearing, they get thrown together more and more.  Paxton’s character starts to remember the passion he had for both the research and for Hunt’s character. 

Each tornado that comes along is bigger than the last, of course.  This serves to keep ramping up the action and the danger.  The final tornado is the most powerful – an F5 that is a mile wide on the ground.

This is an action movie, so the ways that the characters survive the tornados, especially the last one, are mostly absurd.  You just have to go with it. 

The scene that seemed to make the biggest impression on people was when Paxton and Hunt are driving towards a tornado and they see a cow being thrown through the air in front of them.  Hunt’s character just says “cow” in a stunned-but-calm voice.  A few seconds later they see it again and she just says “another cow” in the same voice.  Paxton’s character replies that he thinks it’s the same one.  Joss Whedon performed an uncredited re-write on the script and this scene sounds like something he would do.

A little piece of trivia – this was the first movie to ever be released on DVD.

Another one – the movie features a scene where a twister hits a drive-in.  On May 21, 1996 a tornado hit a drive-in theater in Ontario that was scheduled to show this movie.  (Twister wasn’t actually playing when the tornado hit as some versions of the story go.)

If you’re looking for a good action film with a great visual style, then I highly recommend this movie.

Chip’s Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

           DVD                      Blu-ray

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