A disaster film in which everything that can go wrong does go wrong, The Tunnel is the latest feature from Norwegian filmmaker Pål Øie. It’s a small-scale survival movie that highlights the dangers of what could happen if people ever became stuck in one of Norway’s many tunnels without an easy means of escape. And after a truck driver crashes in one such underpass, those inside become trapped when the truck bursts into flames, filling the space with deadly smoke as a blizzard rages outside. It’s up to emergency worker Stein (Thorbjørn Harr) and his team to find a way to save those inside – including his daughter (Ylva Lyng Fuglerud).
At its best, Øie’s latest offering is a taut and tense affair punctuated with a palpable sense of threat as we watch the dense smoke smother the tunnel into near darkness. The stakes are high, and when the destructive chain of events is kicked into motion the second act only picks up more momentum as the situation escalates. With a handful of horrific imagery thrown in for good measure, the filmmakers certainly know how to make an impact. Likewise, Harr and Fuglerud both deliver solid performances and give audiences an anchor for each side of the ongoing disaster.
Sadly, everything else this piece has to offer isn’t up to scratch. Alongside a scattering of subpar performances from smaller parts and a hitchhiker subplot that goes nowhere, the main issue with this film is that it tries too hard to get audiences emotionally invested in every character. Not only does the tragedy occur just before Christmas Eve, but the father and daughter are also struggling to move on from the death of their sick mother. Even the traffic control worker (Ingvild Holthe Bygdnes) is given a tragic backstory. By the time the script gets to the third act, each good intention is weighed down by every cliché in the book, turning the exciting climax into a dull trudge through yet more banalities.
While The Tunnel does feel like a PSA on Norwegian road safety at times, when all the components do align it makes for an exhilarating thriller. Unfortunately, it veers off course shortly after, leaving the best parts behind in the smoke.
The Tunnel is released digitally on demand on 21st September 2020.
Watch the trailer for The Tunnel here: