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If you want to tell a story that is full of excitement, drama and action one setting that never lets you down is the sea. The brave people that take to the open ocean have been the basis of more tales of action and adventure that it would be possible to list. Sea faring has been pat of mythology, folk lore and re even found in religious texts around the world. Our planet is mostly water; our blood has the same salinity as the oceans and any biologist will quickly tell you that life is linked with the oceans that cover our world. The sea offers everything that is required for a fast pace action story. It has the isolation from a timely source of help should trouble arise. The oceans are unforgiving in their sheer brute power and how they drive most of the deadly storms on the planet. I just had a chance to review one of the latest ‘man against nature’ flicks ‘Stormforce’ and although I admit that I expected just another movie of the week disaster flick I was pleasantly surprised. The original Dutch title was ‘Windkracht 10: Koksijde Rescue’ and it was based on a popular television series in that nation. To its credit it apparently has been deigned to distance itself from the TV show so as to help viewers not familiar with the series to get into the story. This is important if the film is to succeed outside the borders of its homeland.

One thing that is refreshing about this production is it was not geared towards the big budget, super special effects oriented American market. There are plenty of action scenes to be found but the concentration is on the story. To be fair this was one of the largest budgeted films for the nation of its origin but by the financial standards here in the States it would be considered along with independent movies. For die hard movie buffs it is interesting to see how other cultures react to something as basic for us here in the States as an action movie. It has a different flow and feel that you might be used to and that, in this case, it fun to watch. It is being distributed in this country much like an independent film through MTI Home Video. They are rapidly becoming a go to source for people interested in movies that have not had the huge marketing and exposure afforded to the ones made by the major studios.

The writer for the film is Pierre De Clercq and he has made a career in writing screenplays for about eighteen years. Most of his work has been in Dutch television productions including several episodes of the television series that the movie is based. He is able to construct the story in such a way as to roughly divide it between the action oriented rescues at sea and the development of the main characters. He hits the required assortment of characters including the handsome loner, Rick (Kevin Janssens) and the beautiful young nurse Alex (Veerle Baetend). With vital, attractive people like this in the cast there is more than enough to enable one of the cornerstones of this type of movie; sexual tension. For this to work properly there has to be some plot device to keep the potential lovers apart. De Clercq does this will a well used method. Rick has a reputation of endangering his co-workers. He has recently been demoted from the navy to the coast guard unit of the army due to a deadly incident. Alex has to come to grips with the matter of trusting him in the life and death situations they must face on a daily basis. I touch intrigue is added with the addition of Marleen (Tine Reymer) and her wheel-chair bound husband Koen (Axel Daeseleire). They couple have a mysterious connection to Rick and his past.

Directing the film was Hans Herbots. He has a fifteen year career in the field that is rather evenly divided between theatrical and television projects. He constructs this film much better than most movies based on a television series are made. The film is roughly divided into two acts. In the first section Herbots focuses on building the character’s backgrounds, motivation and initial interpersonal relationships. This is far more time invested in such matters than in the typical action flick and it pays off. In most action movies there is just enough exposition for the characters to establish their stereotypical roles. Herbot appears to have taken a page from the Irwin Allen playbook of classic disaster movies. In most of his movies there is an initial big scene that sets the stage for danger and excitement. Then Allen would always change the pace and develop several personality driven stories running in parallel. In this section of his films he would flesh out the characters that will be shortly will be placed in danger. Herbot takes a similar tack in this movie. The first half of the film serves to let us know the characters. This is vital to the rest of the film although many may see it as just filler. This is not the case. It is important for the audience to form an emotional bond with the characters. There is no sense of danger if we don’t care about the people on the screen. By allowing the audience enough of an opportunity to see the characters as complex human beings there is a heightened feeling of impending doom.

In the second act things begin to pick up. The characters are in place and the action can begin in full. There are several at sea rescues that are gripping. The first one is concerned with a sailboat that has gone adrift during a dark and stormy night. The second was a daytime mission to save the crew of a cargo ship that is ablaze. What is needed in both cases is a man willing to put it all on the line to get the job done. This is where Rick comes in. He had been in the Belgian navy as a diver but was not the type to go by the book or give much credence to his superior officers. After he takes matters into his own hands one too many times he is shipped off the coast guard division of the army. A man like this needs a woman who is just as feisty as he is and that brings us to Alex. She is a pretty young woman in a male dominated world. She had to fight hard and be smarter than anyone around just to get to her current position.

This is a better than average movie for this genre although American audience may be in for a few twists and a pacing that they might not be used to seeing. The movie is well worth the effort though and this one will provide a great movie night at home.

Posted 02/26/09

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