REVIEW: ‘The Wave’ Turns a Bad Trip into a Psychedelic Quest

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The Wave

A common trope in film, bad trips while on psychedelics can have their own subgenre. Then, there is The Wave, a film from writer-director Gille Klabin that takes the concept to a new level and pushes expectations, weaving a puzzle that viewers can try to put together, only to be subverted at every step until the story unfolds in the last 15 minutes.

In The Wave, Frank (Justin Long), is an opportunistic insurance lawyer who has a seemingly loveless marriage and ultimately a boring life with nothing but finding a way to swindle money from insurance clients and a 4k television to keep him going. After his co-worker, Jeff (Donald Faison), takes him out for what he thinks is going to be the time of his life to celebrate a promotion, a series of bizarre events and a hallucinogenic drug throws Frank down a rabbit hole of confusion, bad decision, and life-threatening consequences.

While Frank is talking with and bonding with a beautiful woman that he and Jeff met at a bar, she sets him on a path that completely alters his perception of the world. After taking the hallucinogen, he goes on what can only be described as a bad trip that reveals itself to be a psychedelic quest through board meetings, nightclubs, shootouts, and alternate dimensions. As Frank bounces between reality and fantasy, he finds himself on a mission to find the girl from the bar, his wallet, and learn just what is happening to him.

The Wave

As Frank, Long oscillates between apathetic, anxious, confused, and determined as the film develops. His ability to make every frustration and celebration feel authentic is a grounding point to a film that does its best to throw you off at every point of its mysterious ride. Through The Wave, Klabin uses filters that cause the scenes to distort, like those apps that turn your favorite selfies into oil paintings. Used to throw you into the deep end of the pull with Frank, this distortion effect is at its strongest at the front of the film, waning as Frank becomes more aware of what he needs to do and begins to understand the nature of his existence since taking the mysterious drug.

While the film maintains its fantastical lens throughout. In the third act, it settles paces and unfolds the mystery that has been building up, connecting dots and showcasing that even the smallest parts of the film were more consequential than you might have thought. From a bag of drugs, his missing wallet, and even the woman from the bar, when everything comes together, you’re going to be happy that you stayed through the bright lights, hectic pacing, and slightly confusing plot at the beginning of the film. As The Wave begins to level out, like well, a wave, you settle into the story and as loose ends get tied up it all begins to make sense.

The Wave

With all that being said, there were moments where it was hard to watch the film. At the beginning of Frank’s trip, there the shifting lens and color and light usage brought on a bit of motion-sickness. Thankfully, the elements that did this occurred in burst and weren’t sustained, allowing me time to come back to the film.

Additionally, Faison is a great member of the cast, stepping up for a confused Frank, helping him, and ultimately putting his own life on the line for him. Jeff is also not afraid to tell Frank everything that is wrong, even though he goes along with helping him in the end. It’s a dynamic that works and both actors thrive when they share scenes together.

Overall, The Wave is way more than a story around a bad trip. The moral choices and discussions that occur during this tight 82-minute film all serve to push a story to do more than just weave a mystery. Instead, they also serve to develop Frank into a person looking to right his wrongs and ultimately be a better person, no matter what it means for him. By the end of the film, the self-important attorney is no more, and we get a look at a character who’s completed a growth experience, just like the universe intended for him.

The Wave opens on January 17, 2020.


The Wave
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Overall, The Wave is way more than a story around a bad trip. The moral choices and discussions that occur during this tight 82-minute film all serve to push a story to do more than just weave a mystery. Instead, they also serve to develop Frank into a person looking to right his wrongs and ultimately be a better person, no matter what it means for him.

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