‘The Tunnel’ Review: Fire in the Hole

Filled with breathtaking fjords and steep, snow-capped mountains, Norway relies on hundreds of tunnels to connect its hinterland communities to the rest of the country. Essential as they are, these tunnels — per “The Tunnel’s” foreboding opening titles — are also sites of potential devastation. A collision within these cavernous pathways could trigger a domino effect of raging fires, chaos and survivalist panic as blinding black smoke threatens to asphyxiate those struggling to find a way out.

Surprise, surprise. This is precisely what happens in the director Pal Oie’s formulaic, but sufficiently diverting thriller, the unofficial third in a string of popular disaster movies from Norway with self-explanatory titles (i.e. “The Wave” and its sequel, “The Quake”).

The crisis unfolds via multiple perspectives — a family of four trapped inside the tunnel; an obnoxious businessman who, by chance, avoids the accident; a traffic controller remotely guiding rescue efforts. The bulk of the film, however, follows a burly firefighter, Stein (Thorbjorn Harr), whose feisty teenage daughter, Elise (Ylva Fuglerud), finds herself in peril after defiantly hopping on an Oslo-bound charter bus for the holidays. Stein and his crew of rescuers are out of their depth against the miles-long hellhole. Nevertheless, news of Elise’s whereabouts sends her intrepid father to the rescue.

The human dimension is painfully cliché, and Oie’s clunky orchestration of intersecting individual stories flattens the film’s overall momentum. It does, however, manage to eke out moments of genuine suspense and harrowing claustrophobia with its straightforward premise and contained, small-scale action. “The Tunnel” isn’t a bad time, but it’s also not terribly memorable — a shame given the familiar jitters of driving down those long, dark passages.

The Tunnel
Not rated. In Norwegian, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. In theaters and on Apple TV, FandangoNow and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.

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