Movie Review: The Tunnel
Norway delivers a breathtaking, terrifying and exciting spectacle in The Tunnel.
The Tunnel is a roller coaster of emotions and tensions. The story of a gas truck crashing deep inside a Norwegian tunnel, beneath a massive mountain, thousands of miles above sea level, The Tunnel is gripping, well acted and breathtaking. Starring Thorbjorn Harr at the head of a terrific Norwegian ensemble, The Tunnel hopes to break through the American aversion to subtitles by delivering an action/drama intense enough to make you forget it’s in another language.
The Tunnel stars Thorbjorn Harr as Stein, a rescue worker, first responder and plow driver in charge of a stretch of road that goes into the mountains where drivers must pass through a 5 plus mile tunnel, deep beneath a massive mountain range. Stein is a father and a widower and three years after the death of his wife, he’s looking to move on with a new girlfriend, Ingrid (Lisa Carlehed), but his daughter, Elise (Ylva Fuglerud), makes it clear that she is not ready.
With a winter storm approaching, many of Norway’s mountain tunnels are being closed but not the one where Stein works. That’s unfortunate because an accident inside that tunnel, just before a storm is about to arrive is about to wreak havoc. A tanker truck loses control, nearly 2 miles into this 5 plus mile tunnel and causes a back up. Then, the truck catches fire and the black smoke generated from that fire leads to people being suffocated, slowly and painfully.
Only Stein and his pre-Christmas skeleton crew of first responders can get to these people on time. The crew on the other side of the tunnel has already been stopped, for the time being, by the storm which caused an avalanche that blocks the only road to the tunnel. Complicating things for Stein is that his daughter has hopped a bus headed to Oslo to spend Christmas with her grandparents, unbeknownst to him, and she is now among those trapped in the tunnel.
The Tunnel has many other subplots occurring alongside Stein, his daughter and the rescue attempt. Elise, having spent time with her dad in the tunnel, knows where to go in an emergency and leads passengers to what may only be a temporary safe space. Black smoke will eventually overtake this space but there is some temporary oxygen and the hope that this space may be safe until rescue arrives.
A mother, father and their two young daughters are among those who were in the tunnel and stopped by the crash. When the tanker catches fire, they make the daring choice to try and walk out of the tunnel, only to have the father struck by a car and the smoke cause the daughters to get disoriented and lost from their mother. The frantic mother searches for her daughters until the black smoke forces her to make a harrowing decision.
The Tunnel forces you into that place where you must ask what you would do in this situation? Finding out if you made the right decision comes pretty quick as you watch characters make life or death decisions and those who ignore the best advice to their own demise. Each of these moments is filled with tension and excitement. Director Pal Oie smartly directs his attention to the action of The Tunnel while his actors are left to fill in the drama. The approach works, I was swept up in both the life or death action and the dramatic human story.
I especially enjoyed the performance of actress Ingvild Holthe Bygdnes. Though she is not anywhere near the tunnel, her role as an emergency technician taking emergency calls and investigating the crash from her computer screen, Bygdnes makes tough calls, connects with those in the tunnel seeking help, and becomes emotionally involved when the missing young girls call her from an emergency line in the tunnel. Bygdnes doesn’t have action to fall back on. Her role is entirely in her face and voice and the performance is flawless.
Forget your aversion to subtitles, it’s not that hard to pay attention to The Tunnel and the dialogue. The action is exciting, the characters are relatable and empathetic and the movie is well directed. It’s a good movie that happens to be from Norway and happens to have subtitles. Don’t be intimidated, just give yourself over to the immersive and breathtaking spectacle of The Tunnel and I promise you will be as compelled by it as much as I was.
The Tunnel arrives in limited theatrical release and on-demand rental release on Friday April 9th.