Movie Review: “The 5th Wave” – Fun But Not Fantastic

Written by Caitlin Cooper January 24, 2016

the 5th wave

Alien invasion films are a dime a dozen. They’re one of the most popular movie sub-genres, and I think I can safely say we’ve all seen a lot of them. But with the increasing popularity of YA books being adapted for the big screen – especially sci-fi and dystopian -, we were bound to see an alien film where it’s teens and young adults versus aliens. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is the latest book to be adapted for the big screen, and it promises to be action-packed with a focus on family and other relationships. While it is indeed full of action scenes, it feels like there was more focus on that than allowing the story to shine.

The 5th Wave is about survival during an ongoing alien invasion when everyone’s lost someone, and you can’t trust anyone. Cassie (Chloë Grace Moretz) used to be a normal teenager crushing on the captain of the football team, Ben (Nick Robinson), but the alien invasion changed everything. She lost her mother to the alien’s virus, and is forced to move to a refugee camp with her dad (Ron Livingston) and her younger brother Sam (Zackary Arthur). But when her father is killed and her brother is taken by the military, Cassie is left to get her brother back with nothing but the barest supplies and a gun she doesn’t really know how to use. When she meets someone on her journey who can help her, she jumps at the chance. But her new ally is keeping secrets, and Cassie doesn’t know who to trust.

“There’s nothing safe anymore.”

The trailer gives us a glimpse of the action scenes in The 5th Wave, and indeed this movie is quite entertaining on that front. The story jumps right into the thick of things from the start, and pretty much keeps up the quick pacing the whole way through. And while that does keep the film from being boring, it makes it quite hard for a story to be told effectively. Cassie is driven by her love for her brother and the promise she made to him. She’s been through a lot, but she’s managing well. She struggles with what she’s done to survive which is a nice conflict to add to the film. When she meets Evan (Alex Roe), she doesn’t trust him, and she doesn’t appreciate him treating her like glass. But as they spend more time together, they begin to have feelings for one another. Until she learns that he is in fact part alien. He chooses instead to side with humans. I like the idea behind this dynamic and this aspect of the story, but the fast pacing of The 5th Wave makes it hard to believe the romance is strong enough to already be love.

the 5th wave

I like that the story also follows Sam and, in a strange coincidence, Ben, Cassie’s crush. They’ve been conscripted by the army to kill Others. But Ben uncovers a dark truth: the army isn’t human at all, and they’ve been manipulating humans to kill each other so they can have the planet to themselves. And together with his new friends, including the bad-ass Ringer (Maika Monroe), he plans to go rogue. Ringer is the “take no bullshit” character who won’t stand for being disrespected. Having the film focus on two plot-lines made the story more well-rounded. Some of the dialogue is a little cliche, and sometimes odd, but otherwise it’s good. But, again, the quick pacing makes it hard to get to know the characters and appreciate the plot twists that are supposed to shock the audience.

“Hope is what makes us human.”

What The 5th Wave has in spades is a good cast. While they help make the movie good, the writing hinders them. Moretz has been acting since she was a kid, and it’s no surprise why she’s successful. Moretz makes Cassie feel genuine; she’s vulnerable, determined, and brave. She’s guided by her love for her family, but she also accepts Evan despite being half alien. Roe is a relatively new actor, at least in terms of North American cinema, but he proves himself to be talented. Monroe brings some comedy into the film with her character’s take-no-shit attitude. Robinson (previously in Jurassic World) is a nice counterpart to Moretz’s Cassie. Liev Schreiber and Ron Livingston aren’t features in the film, but it they know how to play their roles well.

the 5th wave

The 5th Wave delivers almost non-stop action, but unfortunately the story leaves a little something to be desired. There are enough pieces to make the story interesting and hint at complexity, but the fast pace of the film leaves little time to let the story really develop. The 5th Wave is open-ended, and while it wasn’t amazing, it was entertaining so I might keep an open mind about a sequel should there be one.

My Rating: 7/10

the 5th wave

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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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