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Review: “The Fifth Wave” Is A Fun But Choppy Ride

Review: “The Fifth Wave” Is A Fun But Choppy Ride

the fifth wave poster

“The Fifth Wave” combines themes of invasion, disaster, military and romance in a choppy, but passable, young adult catastrophe flick.

“The Fifth Wave” manages to survive a choppy first act, delivering with a few major action sequences and a few relatable characters. It conjures a “Hunger Games” like story arc, develops a lead character akin to “Terminator’s” Sarah Connor, and displays a level of disaster on par with “The Day After Tomorrow.” The problem is that the invasion itself seems hollow.

While “The Fifth Wave” is undeniably one-dimensional, it is enjoyable enough and easily fits in among the recent wave of young adult literature cinematic adaptations. At the same time, the simplified genre may not be popular enough to sustain success at the box-office for more than one like property. Hopefully the property can stay afloat long enough to survive an unforgiving box-office and live to improve over future installments.


Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Etc.) – 2.5

The 5th Wave Book -

“The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey

Adapted from the Rick Yancey novel by the same name, “The Fifth Wave” adds to the catalogue of young adult literature adaptations with a few unique twists. The only glaring problems are more so tied to the high gloss genre that often flaunts cardboard characters and simple plot lines. I would complain about predictability, but the often in-cohesive moments in the film muddle any prescient postulations.

The first act of the film glosses over much of the potential intrigue with a cacophony of flashbacks, montages and narrated time lapses. Another major issue I had with the film was its attention to continuity. More specifically introducing characters only to lose them at some point in the film without explanation. Not kill them off, or say they’re leaving. Nope. One minute they’re there and the next minute they’re not. Now this may have been a purposeful move if the studio’s intention is to spin off sequels. If that’s the case I get it, loose ends build up fan adulation for subsequent films. But for a standalone movie it’s a bit unfulfilling. While the film did display these seemingly detrimental qualities, the young and talented cast made the best of their often vapid dialogue.

Chloe Grace Moretz (“Kick Ass”) plays the unlikely heroine Cassie, finding herself caught in a whirlwind of tragedy and disaster driven by purpose and hope. As I mentioned before Moretz’s character is much like a Sarah Connor type. Given the film’s tumultuous progression, Moretz is forced to display a wide array of qualities. From action elements, to agony, to romance, Moretz manages to retain audience interest. It is unfortunate to see her talent so frequently squandered in these wooden films when she has the potential to transcend to more refined projects.

Another notable talent was Nick Robinson as the cool kid turned child army squad leader Ben Parish. While Robinson’s character doesn’t really play a major role until about halfway through the movie, he does make a big splash towards the end (I couldn’t resist). A combination of Robinson’s charisma and good soldier demeanor manages to reel in the audience despite the paper thin plot.

The Fifth Wave - Alex Roe - Chloe Grace Moretz - Sony -

Alex Roe & Chloe Grace Moretz.

The two surprise standout actors in the film are hands down Maika Monroe’s Ringer and Alex Roe’s Evan Walker. Maika and Alex definitely get the BAMF (Bad @ss Mo Fo) award, because both of their characters are impressively brutal and brooding. Maika embodies female strength, valor and severely low tolerance for chauvinism (insert throat chop). On the other hand Alex’s calm farm boy cracks a few skulls when he’s not trying to pull a Rico Suave on Moretz’s Cassie.

While the youth shine, the adults fall limp and lackluster. All I can say is that I expected much more from Liev Schreiber, Maria Bello and Ron Livingston. Livingston was more of a plot progressing mannequin, while Schreiber and Bello gave us boilerplate military characters with no discernible flair. Their performances weren’t bad, but did little to add to the quality of the film.

Cinematically speaking the film struggles but is somewhat salvaged by the efforts of its younger cast members. I am really struggling with this review because I felt that the young actors were really spot in a somewhat misguided production that’s often crowded with ostentatious special effects.


the fifth wave maika monroe

Maika Monroe as Ringer. | “The Fifth Wave” (2016)

Entertainment Value – 3

The CGI special effects were a bit over-the-top, even absurd at times, but the action elements still managed to make sense for the story. It is after all a story about an alien invasion that comes in the form of five massive destructive, yet distinctly different, waves. The film would have benefited from seeing those so-called waves of annihilation in more of dramatic form, rather than in the form of flashback.

Special effects aside, the best action moments were the practical moments. Moretz’s Cassie is forced to dart across an abandoned interstate while under sniper fire. Alex’s Evan Walker engages in some bone splintering hand to hand combat. Maika’s ringer detonates a charge to create cover for her pinned battalion. Those are moments are what made the film exciting, while the CGI seemed more like background noise. Those are the moments that made me shuttle to the edge of my seat, no matter how fleeting the exhilaration may have been.


Re-Watchability – 2


Chloe Grace Moretz as Cassie.

While I really really enjoyed a handful of scenes in the film, it wasn’t enough to merit me surfing back to the cinema for a second time. This would make for a great casual watch or stocking stuffer for your teenage sibling or kin. At the same time, in a market that is already dominated by “Hunger Games,” “Twilight” and “Divergent,” I don’t see this movie making big waves at the box office. Cassie may best Katniss in theory, trading a bow and arrow for an assault rifle, it will likely take a second installment to top the “Hunger Games'” crackling notoriety.


Watch the official trailer for “The Fifth Wave” below.

“The Fifth Wave” is A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures presentation, in association with LStar Capital, of a Material/GK Films production.
Produced by Tobey Maguire, Graham King, Matthew Plouffe and  Lynn Harris.
Executive Producers: Denis O’Sullivan, Richard Middleton and Ben Waisbren.
Directed by J Blakeson
Screenplay by  Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner adapted from the novel by Rick Yancey.
Starring: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Ron Livingston, Maggie Siff, Alex Roe, Maria Bello, Maika Monroe, Zackary Arthur, Liev Schreiber, Tony Revolori, Talitha Bateman, Nadji Jeter, Alex MacNicoll.
Running Time of 112 minutes.
Rated PG-13

  • Cinematics
  • Entertainment Value
  • Rewatchability


"The Fifth Wave" is good and that's about it. Much of the intricacy and vigor of the source material was washed away in the cinematic adaption process leaving nothing but a shell that resembles too many other movies on the market already. While I really really enjoyed a handful of scenes in the film, it wasn't enough to merit me surfing back to the cinema for a second time. And while Cassie may best Katniss in theory, trading a bow and arrow for an assault rifle, it will likely take a second installment to top the "Hunger Games'" crackling notoriety.

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About The Author


Since his wee lad-dom, Pooya has been a sommelier of cinema. It was likely some acting bug, fallen from the dust riddled ruby curtains of an enchanted old stage that did it. Those cinematic scarabs must have burrowed deep into his brain, irreversibly altering his mind, turning the poor boy down a dismal path. From his earliest years the strange boy would aimlessly wander the aisles of countless video rental stores, amassing his trivial knowledge with vigor. These actions befuddled the boy’s parents, who still would lovingly oblige his unusual attraction to the motion picture. Often seeking refuge in the cushioned seating of his local movie theater, the odd adolescent would immerse himself in the scripted and effects riddled realities unfolding on the screen before him. During his collegiate years, he was twice spotted on stage performing bizarre theatrical rituals before awe-struck audiences. When he departed from academia, he left behind his youth in exchange for a labor routine, but the strange young man never lost his long-cultivated love of film. Recently, Pooya was approached by to join their budding team of entertainment bloggers. After hours of coaxing and an undisclosed number of honey jars, he accepted their offer. Finally he had come full circle. Finally, at, he was home.

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