The 5th Wave film review: the next YA hit?

Chloë Grace Moretz stars in post-apocalyptic action thriller The 5th Wave

It’s a story we’ve seen again and again: the dystopian future has arrived. Almost everyone is dead. A lot rests in the hands of a teenager who doesn’t know what they’re doing. This time, the teenager is Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz), and the dystopian future is coming in waves.

When a sort-of alien invasion – in which earthquakes, tsunamis, viruses and electromagnetic pulses have wiped out almost everyone and everything – Cassie finds herself alone and vulnerable. But after she makes a promise with her little brother, she’s determined to find him no matter what.

At a glance, The 5th Wave looks like more of the same, and in some respects it is. It’s very clearly the first of a series, the journal-style narration from Cassie is often annoying and unnecessary, and it seems to set itself up for an inevitable love triangle that will surely blossom at a later date. However, the film still manages to stand out from the cornucopia of other YA sci-fi adaptations, and its successes are largely down to the excellent Moretz in the leading role.

She’s like a chameleon; she effortlessly transforms into any character she’s faced with. And who she’s playing here is a regular teenage girl. 

What’s interesting is that when Cassie thinks of herself as a regular girl, she really is a regular girl. She doesn’t lead a rebellion, and she’s not super smart; she just gets on with it. Throughout the film, she doesn’t do anything that an actual unremarkable teenager couldn’t imagine themselves doing in her situation. In short, she’s boring and not special at all, but it’s actually kind of refreshing.

She keeps a journal and stores creepy photos of her high-school crush between the pages. She’s a bit useless with a gun, and can’t tell a goody from a baddie. When out looting a petrol station in the film’s very first steal, she nicks a handful of tampons, because why wouldn’t you? You don’t suddenly gain mad combat skills and stop getting your period just because the world is ending. A lot of other YA series don’t think about these things, and it makes the rest of us look bad. Not Cassie though. It’s quite easy to see yourself as Cassie.

Though The 5th Wave wins in some places, it fails in others. It’s a well-structured story with an interesting central character and elements of excitement and intrigue but little things often let it down. And ‘little things’ are often single shots that completely ruin the tone of a scene, like the ten seconds when Cassie hilariously almost falls over in slow motion just after dozens have been shot dead and she’s trying to escape the same fate. Or the moment when she accidentally sees her on-screen love interest sensually washing his topless, glistening torso in a lake and sexy Mills And Boon music starts playing in the background.

It almost seems like the director popped terrible off cuts back in while putting the final edit together, just to see if he could get away with it. 

Even with its downfalls, it’s very easy to get lost in Cassie’s world and, what with all the drama that kicked off towards the end, a lack of sequel would be disappointing.