I first heard about The 5th Wave several months ago when a friend of mine read the book. After hearing what the book was about, if I'm being totally honest, I thought been there, done that. The concept sounds extraordinarily similar to many of the famous alien invasion stories that we've seen or heard over the years. However, after seeing the film, I couldn't have been more wrong.
It's a difficult task to tell a story about aliens arriving on Earth and attempting to take over the world, all while maintaining an essence of originality. Somehow, The 5th Wave manages to do this and more, shocking viewers with several unpredictable twists (that is, if you haven't read the book). Not only does The 5th Wave establish itself as a separate entity from all other alien movies, it also marks the beginning of a film franchise that has the power to sit on your shelf alongside some of the all-time greats. So, despite what you may see about The 5th Wave, or what you might read online, bare with me as I explain exactly why YOU need to go see and The 5th Wave.
To begin with, I think it's important to make this clear: A common misconception associated with The 5th Wave is that it is a young adult movie, belonging in the same genre category as Twilight. I myself was under this impression too, however that couldn't be further from the truth. I have heard great reviews about the book, but never having read it, I had to make up my own mind based solely on the film itself. In the UK, the film is certified by the BBFC with a 15 rating, which is unusual for a supposedly young adult film.
Young adult film franchises such as Twilight, Harry Potter, or The Hunger Games are certified with a 12 rating, highlighting how The 5th Wave is not intended for younger audiences. In fact, the film shares very few similarities with any of the previously mentioned franchises. Apart from having the basis for an obvious romance, The 5th Wave is very much a science fiction orientated film. It is less Twilight, more Walking Dead. The tone of the film is rather bleak, specifically the first hour. It's as capable of reducing you to tears as it is making you smile. Featuring strong language throughout, as well as occasional strong violence, it becomes evident that this film is not for a younger audience, as much as it is for people who love a good science fiction film.
I know what your thinking. You're thinking that the film is about an alien invasion and yes, that's correct, but it's how the story progresses that's important. Moreover, it's what separates The 5th Wave from all the other alien invasion films that makes it worth spending the money. Unlike many other alien invasion narratives, 'The Others' do not pretend to be friendly and they also don't attempt to make contact with the humans — they simply attack. A series of waves destroy the Earth following the arrival of 'The Others' as they attempt to infiltrate and destroy.
Another misconception about the film is that it is about a group of survivors taking down the invaders. This is not the case — the film revolves around characters who are merely attempting to survive and save lives along the way. The characters have already accepted that there is little hope of taking back control. The story takes several turns throughout, making it unpredictable as to what will happen next.
The Unpredictability and Twists
As I mentioned above, the film is full of unpredictable twists. Being a movie lover, I am usually very good at predicting upcoming twists, however I was completely shocked by the unpredictable nature of this film. On more than one occasion, I was convinced that I'd figured out what was going to happen, only to be completely blown away by a shocking revelation, or a change of direction. I even gasped a few times.
Don't Rely on the trailer
I've seen the trailers for The 5th Wave several times, so I thought I had a pretty good idea of the film I was going to see. I was wrong. There are several plots cleverly omitted from the trailer that bring the story together.
Characterization and Character Development
One thing that any movie requires, good or bad, is strong characters. The 5th Wave may feature a small cast but, as the old saying goes, it's quality not quantity. Cassie Sullivan, played wonderfully by Chloë Grace Moretz, is strong enough to hold the entire film together. The film focuses mainly on Cassie, as she struggles to survive in this new post-apocalyptic world. Her struggle has the ability to break your heart as she wanders through endless forests, looking for her brother. Similarly, Nick Robinson, who plays Ben Parish, is at the other end of the spectrum. While Cassie is openly narrating her story, Ben closes himself off from humanity after losing his family.
As I mentioned earlier, even bad films have good characters, but in order for the character to make the film better, there has to be some level of character development. You'll be pleased to hear that The 5th Wave is overflowing with character development. Without spoiling the ending, it is interesting to see where the characters begin and where they end up. The characters are literally taken on a journey, both physically and internally. Another thing that cannot be faulted is the acting, specifically from Robinson, who possesses the ability to take the viewer to Ben Parish's personal post-apocalyptic hell with nothing more than a glance. Moretz shines too, conveying Cassie's isolation beautifully.
It's only just begun
As I'm sure you are aware, The 5th Wave is the first in what hopes to be a film trilogy. What I absolutely loved about this film is that it wasn't afraid to take a break. Admittedly, the first 10 minutes or so skip from scene to scene to get the narrative where it needs to be, but once it's there we often see Cassie stopping and thinking. In one scene that springs to mind, Cassie picks up her brother's teddy bear, but the scene is intentionally drawn out, remaining in one camera shot for several moments. It intensifies the scene that follows, by highlighting that time really had begun to stand still for Cassie.
The film feels very much like the pilot of a television series, having established the plot, the characters and the world that they live in, but there is still so much story left to tell. What happens next? I for one, can't wait to find out.
Ultimately, I was blown away by The 5th Wave and I hope that you'll give it the chance to blow you away, too. Rick Yancey has created a wonderful (post-apocalyptic) world that couldn't have been more realistic — unless you were living it yourself. If I was forced to make a comparison, The 5th Wave is V meets The Walking Dead, however maintaining a level of originality that one would think of as impossible. It left me with the urge to press play on the next episode, only realizing that I'll have to wait several years to see the next installment.
Throughout the film, I experienced just about every emotion that is humanly possible, but perhaps that was the filmmaker's intention: to remind us of our humanity. It's a little ironic that Sia's Alive played over the end credits, because as I left the theater, that's exactly how I felt.