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"Force Majeure": Manmade Avalanches and Other Family Dramas 

Tuesday, Nov 4 2014

The best disaster movies tend to be less about the spectacle of disaster itself and more about how the characters react to it. Ruben Östlund's Force Majeure pulls off the remarkable trick of being a disaster movie that largely skips the disaster, but still has plenty of spectacle and dramatic aftermath. Married couple Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) take their two blond moppets on a skiing holiday in the French Alps. One day, an avalanche appears to be bearing down on the lodge during an outdoor lunch; controlled avalanches are common, but this one is heading straight for them. Tomas freaks the hell out and runs for his life, leaving Ebba behind with the kids. It's a false alarm and nobody is injured, but Tomas' fight-or-flight reaction causes permanent damage to his relationship with Ebba. Nearly every scene in Force Majeure is beautiful, as to be expected from a film shot in and around a swanky ski lodge in the Alps, and there's plenty of breathtaking skiing photography. But Östlund also conveys the fragility of the surroundings; the ski-lift equipment is dangerously janky, and the near-constant explosions from the avalanche-control machines make it feel like less like a vacation spot and more like a war zone. And that's exactly what it becomes.

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Sherilyn Connelly


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