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Twister: One of the most exciting disaster movies of the ’90s is coming to Netflix

Twister (PG, 113 min.) Directed by Jan de Bont ***½

“Night of horrors,” proclaims a billboard promoting a double feature at a drive-in theater about to be devastated by a tornado.

It’s an apt summary of Jan de Bont’s blistering 1996 blockbuster sequel to its all-conquering speed.

This is a film where the characters play second fiddle to the carnage – a disaster film set in America’s sprawling spaces rather than the usual cramped spaces.

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Jo (Helen Hunt) is a woman whose life was ruined by a “twisting” of the title. In 1969, her father was carried away by a particularly nasty one. She’s been obsessed with them ever since and is now busy chasing them across the US to better understand them so early warning systems can be put in place.

When we first meet her, she’s leading a rather ragtag group of scientists who think they’ve found a way to put sensors right in the eye of a storm. This pretty much coincides with a record “season” of weather phenomena.

As sold in the original trailers all those years ago, this isn't about the actors.  This is about the Industrial Light and Magic special effects that live up to their name by creating a real monster out of swirling winds.

delivered

As sold in the original trailers all those years ago, this isn’t about the actors. This is about the Industrial Light and Magic special effects that live up to their name by creating a real monster out of swirling winds.

However, the arrival of her estranged husband, Bill (Bill Paxton), distracts Jo from her intense “hunt.” He used to share Jo’s passion, but now that he’s signed on as a TV weatherman, all he wants to do is sign his divorce papers so he can get on with his life and marry his new partner, Melissa (Jamie Gertz), a sex therapist who has no experience with that thrill of the hunt.

Of course, it doesn’t take long for Bill’s good intentions to fall by the wayside, as “the human barometer” (as it’s also known) is blown away by the excitement – and Jo.

But alongside the highly volatile and potentially dangerous storms, our heroes must also contend with far better-equipped rivals – led by Jonas (Cary Elwes) – who are also hell-bent on being first to oversee the interior of a Twister.

Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt star in Twister.

delivered

Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt star in Twister.

As sold in the original trailers all those years ago, this isn’t about the actors. This is about the Industrial Light and Magic special effects that live up to their name by creating a real monster out of swirling winds. From falling gas tankers to flying cows, the effects are still a bit stunning and seriously face-focused (one would almost think this was done in the 1980s or early 2010s when 3-D was de rigueur).

It’s a shame that some of the acting and writing doesn’t quite live up to the visuals, the story is full of classic tropes and clichés, right down to Elwes’ corporate “bad guys” driving a fleet of black pickup trucks.

Co-writer Michael Crichton clearly borrows the film’s relationship beats from Jurassic Park, the finale has clear echoes of speed, and while there are plenty of nods and references to The Wizard of Oz, it’s another 1939 film – Howard Hawks ‘Only Angels Have Wings – that this most closely resembles.

Twister is now available to stream on Netflix.

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