The latest wave in the endless storm of post-apocalyptic action films adapted from YA novels takes the form of an alien invasion: the “Others” have worn down human civilisation in a progression of four increasingly severe “waves”, leaving the Earth’s population a scattered fraction awaiting the inevitable, titular fifth. Cassie (Moretz) is on the run, teaming up with the mysterious, severely hunky Evan (Roe) to find and save her younger brother Sammy; he, meanwhile, ends up drafted into a desperate human resistance army alongside Cassie’s former crush and secondary protagonist Ben (Robinson).
Not all is ever as it seems, however; the Others have the ability to masquerade as humans. This conceit, as you would expect, takes the narrative through a few twists and turns, though it more touches on than actually delves into the paranoia that such a situation would cause. It also has the effect of making this a more interpersonal alien invasion than most. Other than a few scenes of Roland Emmerich-like spectacle early on (with visuals lifted from both Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow), the action is kept fairly small-scale.
This is not always to the film’s benefit, with forgettable competence the order of the day in everything from Moretz’s lead performance (her Cassie has little of the fragile-sarcastic-humour-masking-severe-trauma that characterises her narration in Rick Yancey’s novel) to Henry Jackman’s blandly contemporary score. At least the dreaded love triangle, though implied, never truly rears its ugly head; the sole scene with all three participants in the same room actually injects a rare laugh into the otherwise fairly grim picture (child soldiers and mass extinction, hurrah!).
In short, you get exactly what you would expect from the genre. The film is neither appreciably worse nor better than, say, a Maze Runner or Divergent picture – and, by showing the apocalypse as well as the post-apocalypse, benefits from a more believable universe. It passes its brisk 112 minutes well enough, but is unlikely to make much of a splash.
The 5th Wave | Directed by J Blakeson (USA 2016) with Chloë Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Alex Roe, Liev Schreiber. Starts Jan 14.