Review: ‘Infinite Storm,’ starring Naomi Watts and Billy Howle

March 28, 2022

by Carla Hay

Naomi Watts in “Infinite Storm” (Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street)

“Infinite Storm”

Directed by Małgorzata Szumowska

Culture Representation: Taking place in New Hampshire, the dramatic film “Infinite Storm” features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with one African American) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A nurse, who is also a search-and-rescue worker, fights for survival with an anonymous man while stranded on a mountain during a blizzard, and she has to come to terms with a tragedy from her past. 

Culture Audience: “Infinite Storm” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Naomi Watts, but this movie has little to offer that looks authentic.

Naomi Watts in “Infinite Storm” (Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street)

Even though “Infinite Storm” is inspired by a true story, almost everything in this disaster movie looks phony. The dialogue is awkward. Physical injuries look fake. Actions are hard to believe. Adding to this move’s turgid clumsiness, the subject matter could easily have been a short film, based on the movie’s lack of character development and very simplistic dialogue. Expect to see a lot of repetitive scenes with nothing but people trudging through the snow and huffing and puffing, as the actors pretend that they’re in danger and running out of breath.

Directed by Małgorzata Szumowska and written by Joshua Rollins, “Infinite Storm” is a movie where the first two-thirds are tedious scenes about a rescue mission on New Hampshire’s Mount Washington. The last third of the movie is a badly bungled depiction of grief. Even though “Infinite Storm” is supposed to take place in New Hampshire, the movie was actually filmed in the Alps near the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana.

The movie’s protagonist is divorcée Pam Bales (played by Naomi Watts), a nurse who is also a trained search-and-rescue worker. Keep in mind that she’s supposed to be a trained rescuer when you see all the mistakes that she makes in this movie. That’s not to say that the real Pam Bales is incompetent and lacking in common sense. The movie makes her look that way.

For starters, Pam decides to go hiking by herself on Mount Washington (part of the White Mountains region) without checking the weather forecasts. If she checked the weather forecasts, then she would’ve known that a blizzard was coming. When she gets to the parking lot to start her hike, she sees two hikers (a man and a woman) leaving together. Pam asks these two strangers if they saw anyone else hiking, and they say no.

And it’s at this point you know that if Pam decides to go up that mountain, the chances are next to nothing that anyone will be there to help her if she gets injured. Pam seems oblivious to this possibility, even though she’s a trained search-and-rescue person who knows these circumstances are exactly why hikers in the wilderness can go missing and can die alone.

In the parking lot, there’s a third car with no one in it. Pam asks the two other hikers who are about to leave if they know whose car it is. The answer is no to that question too. It’s at this point in the movie that you know Pam will eventually find out who drove that car there.

Pam also hasn’t told anyone any specifics of where she’s going to hike on this large mountain. It’s a huge mistake for anyone who’s supposed to be experienced in hiking in remote areas. All she says to the two strangers in the parking lot about her hiking plans is this: “If it gets icy, I’ll just bail down the west side to Crawford.” Well, it gets more than “icy.” It’s a full-on blizzard.

And you can easily predict there’s going to be a part of this movie where Pam will fall down and hurt herself. Viewers won’t feel sorry for her when that happens (she falls down a hole that she didn’t see) because no one told her that she had to go hiking in these dangerous conditions all by herself with no real way to call for help if something wrong happened. Meanwhile, Pam keeps blowing an emergency whistle that no one else can hear because no one else is within hearing distance.

However, someone else is actually on the mountain several miles away. When Pam figures out that a blizzard is coming, she decides to leave. She begins to head down the mountain and finds a man (played by Billy Howle) wearing nothing but a T-shirt, shorts and shoes unsuitable for hiking in the snow. He’s sitting down and almost in a frozen trance. He refuses to tell her his name, and he’s incoherent (just like much of this movie), so Pam decides to call him John.

John babbles much of his dialogue. When Pam asks him if he’s under the influence of drugs, he won’t answer those questions. As inarticulate as John is, Pam’s attempts to talk with him aren’t much better. Here’s a sample of one of their nonsensical conversations: Pam asks John if he has anyone waiting for him at home. John replies, “Cat.”

Pam then says, “What’s your cat’s name?” John repeats. “Cat.” Pam’s response: “That’s not very original, John.” John then says, “I’m more of a dog person.” Pam says, “Thank God. Me too. I hate cats.”

Pam does a few things right in trying to keep John warm and preventing him from getting dehydrated. But those sensible things are diluted when she gets him to take off his shoes, she sees that he has severe frostbite on one of his feet, and then she says to him: “You okay?” Of course, he’s not okay. What kind of question is that from someone who’s supposed to be a nurse and sees frostbite right in front of her?

The rest of the movie is about this rescue mission in a lot of tediously staged scenes (John gets injured too), followed by Pam coming to terms with a tragedy where more of her backstory is revealed. Viewers find out that Pam is the mother of two daughters, who are shown with her in flashbacks when the daughters (played by Anya Petrig and Lina Kolenko) were 5 years old and 6 years old. The movie is so skimpy on character development, the daughters don’t even have names in the movie.

“Infinite Storm” is Watts’ second awful movie of 2022 (after “The Desperate Hour”) where she is one of the producers and has the starring role as a heroic mother who’s on some kind of rescue mission to save someone’s life. It’s best to avoid watching “The Desperate Hour” (formerly titled “Lakewood”), unless you want to see an offensively unrealistic portrayal of what happens when a mother tries to get her teenage son out of his school during a gun shooting. At least “The Desperate Hour” had characters who had some realistic-sounding dialogue. “Infinite Storm” does not, no matter how much Watts wants to look convincing.

None of the acting in “Infinite Storm” is special, and some of it is downright cringeworthy. Denis O’Hare, a well-known character actor, has a useless role in the movie that’s a waste of his talent. He portrays a diner owner named Dave, who has a friendly acquaintance with Pam. O’Hare’s total screen time in the movie is about three or four minutes. It’s probably good for O’Hare that his role is so small in this dud of a movie. It’s less embarrassment for him.

Even though people in “Infinite Storm” suffer serious injuries during the rescue (such as a sprained ankle and frostbite), those injuries seem to disappear in “only in a movie” moments where people suddenly run and move around as if those injuries never existed. The movie never shows anyone getting treated for injuries at a hospital. Getting stuck outside on a mountain during a blizzard is no joke, but it’s at least more real than anything presented in the substandard “Infinite Storm.”

Bleecker Street released “Infinite Storm” in U.S. cinemas on March 25, 2022. The movie is set for release on digital and VOD on April 12, 2022.

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