Justin Long stars in The Wave as Frank, an objectively unlikable lawyer. He is in the insurance racket, with the sole purpose of poking holes into as many claims as possible. He’s good at it, and on the night of a promotion, he goes out celebrating with his friend, Jeff (Donald Faison). One hallucinogenic trip later, and Frank’s world and its time-stream start warping. Frank finds himself bouncing back and forth in time, through situations that he, in one way or another, needs to interconnect for the time-warp to end.
It’s worth reiterating here, how much of a butt Frank actually is. It’s bad enough that he ruins lives to countless people through his work, but he’s also the type who goes out celebrating without telling his wife. To hit the trifecta, he decides to pursue one of the ladies in the bar, too.
The movie’s key goal is for Frank to find redemption, but there’s really no way for The Wave to achieve that. Ninety minutes is not nearly enough time to redeem Frank.
Yet, it’s not all bottom of the barrel, The Wave. Justin Long is a capable actor, and he does what he can with his character. Making Frank likable would be too tall of an order for anyone, but Long at least makes him seem human. It’s also nice seeing Faison again, who I mainly know as the sidekick in Scrubs. Here he holds his own as a wisecracking sidekick. Even Frank’s wife, who is scripted to be the overused
nagging wife trope, is portrayed well by Sarah Minnich. The Wave might not be a trove of interesting characters, but the cast does what it can to make it seem like it is.
Too, the time-traveling was intriguing enough to hold my attention to the end. Things like what happened to Frank’s wallet, and where he stashed the drugs he stole from some murderous dealers, were questions I was able to hold out ninety minutes for the answer to. I sat through to the very end, hoping Frank’s redemption at least would be interesting.
In that sense, the time-traveling could have been worse, but the mystery of what happened during Frank’s evening is a whole lot more The Hangover than it is Primer.
And in the end, The Wave just feels banal. It doesn’t achieve saying anything, and its take on what redemption actually is is iffy at best. It never felt like Frank cared about the error of his ways; rather, he just wanted the time-warp to stop.
I don’t think a movie has to say anything particularly meaningful to be worthwhile – look no further than the Happy Death Day duology for time travel fiction that simply is entertaining. The Wave doesn’t succeed in being either fun nor profound.
With that said: the film’s final shot is gold and a reminder of Faison’s talent for deadpan deliveries.