Had anyone heard of a “Storm Chaser” prior to 1995’s Twister? I can’t recall that being a thing until Bill Paxton and that flying cow cemented that profession into America’s psyche. What’s more surprising is that the “Storm Chaser Movie” didn’t become an immediate sub-genre following the success of that flick. There have been some here and there but it hasn’t been a constant flow by any means. I guess this is part of the reason I was so excited to sit down for Supercell, a new film starring Alec Baldwin, Skeet Ulrich, and the late great Anne Heche. In a world of overdone scenarios, this one still seems relatively fresh.
Little did I know that director Herbert James Winterstern had a curveball planned for me, you see Supercell, at it’s heart, is less about F5 tornado’s mass destruction and more a story about a son trying to get to know his late father. William Brody grew up idolizing his father, famed scientist/storm chaser Bill Brody. William never had a real chance to get to know his dad the way he wanted as he was always on the road and eventually was killed tracking a storm. Now grown, William is fixated on his father’s legacy, especially with regard to an early warning system he developed for tornados. William is on his own until he receives a package from Uncle Roy (Skeet Ulrich) which includes all of Bill’s research along with mementos of his father’s. This all leads to the one dangerous road you’d expect, William joining Uncle Roy on the road with his boss Zane (an oddly named Alec Baldwin) for their “Storm Tourism” company…which is apparently an actual thing, I looked it up. Wanting to finish his father’s work and gain the connection to him that he wasn’t able to get in life William puts himself in harm’s way tracking a developing (you guessed it) supercell with the storm touring duo.
Right from the start a warning, this isn’t Twister 2: Electric Boogaloo. If that’s all you’re in for, it’s not your flick BUT I would implore you to check it out anyway. Supercell wasn’t made on a blockbuster budget so don’t expect that to be the end result. Supercell WAS made by talented writers who knew that this film could be made with the storm chasing aspect as a situational background piece, no different then a person working at a hardware store to better understand their father the hardware store owner. Watching William piece together this picture of his late father, both through experience and through pictures and stories is like a heart-wrenching but beautiful whodunit. Running parallel to that, William’s developing bond with “Uncle Roy” makes sure that if that Father/Son piece didn’t kick you in the feels they would get you with that. Skeet Ulrich is someone that I feel always got a raw deal from Hollywood. He’s not the greatest actor of his age but the guy can emote, and should certainly have been utilized more than he has over the last 25 years. I was hesitating to say this, as I’m sure it’ll be the log line from alot of folks regarding this flick, but really it’s too obvious not to be said. There is a real influence here from the Amblin films of the 80s. More Amazing Stories than The Goonies but Amblin nonetheless, at the end of the day you’re left with a real sense of hope and wonder.
Downsides? Well, Anne Heche was underused for one. I think there could have been a huge sub-plot there that was missed out on, so much so that looking back at my synopsis above I didn’t even really mention her. Heche plays William’s mother and former scientific partner to his father, Bill. When Bill died she didn’t just lose a husband and a partner. She lost her lifelong passion for science and had to give up everything to focus on raising William alone. That’s a story of sacrifice, love, loss, and dedication that deserved more than to be glossed over. Lastly, as I’ve alluded to this story hits home for me in a few respects and therefore I’m a bit of a mark for it. BUT, I am self-aware enough to see through that. Specifically enough to realize that the story may be a bit oversweet for some, a little too “After School Special” if you will.
Supercell is a beautiful character study set against the backdrop of a group of people chasing a huge storm system. If you remove from your mind the expectation to see some blockbuster disaster flick I think that you’ll enjoy, if not be thoroughly touched by the story that’s woven through the raindrops here.
Supercell is available now in theaters, VOD and digital.