Directed by: Lee Isaac Chung
Written by: Mark L. Smith, Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Glen Powell, Anthony Ramos, Brandon Perea, Maura Tierney, Daryl McCormack
Released: July 11, 2024
Grade: B


Independent American filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung wowed audiences in 2020 with Minari, a slow-burn drama loosely based on his own upbringing and about a family who emigrates from Korea to the United States in search of a better life.  Produced for just $2 million USD, it earned 6 Academy Award nominations including a win for best supporting actress (Youn Yuh-jung), and nods for best picture and best director.

You could have given me a gazillion guesses and I wouldn’t have predicted Chung’s follow up feature film.  With a whopping budget of $200 million USD, he’s been handed the reins on Twisters, an action blockbuster which serves as a sequel to the 1996 release starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton.  Given its success (it was the second highest grossing flick of the year behind Independence Day), it’s a surprise it’s taken this long for Hollywood to cash in on a follow-up.

Twisters is described as a “standalone sequel” in that there are no references to characters or plot points from the earlier movie.  The prologue introduces us to young scientist Kate Cooper (Edgar-Jones) who, in trying to win a lucrative grant, is working with close friends on tornado research in Oklahoma.  An expedition goes bad, people are killed, and Kate flees to New York City to take a more routine desk job as a meteorologist.

We then slip 5 years into the future where the film’s formulaic setting is laid.  Oklahoma is experiencing a “once in a generation tornado season” and despite Kate professing that “I’m not that person anymore”, she is guilt-tripped out of retirement (for one week only!) by an old friend (Ramos) who is using the latest military equipment to perform 3D scans of tornados and forecast their movements.  She agrees to provide her Nostradamus-like prediction skills because if the work is successful, it has the power to save lives and townships.

As part of her adventures, she encounters Tyler Owens (Powell), a self-described “tornado wrangler” who seems less interested in tornado research and more interested in self-promotion on his widely watched YouTube channel.  Their early interactions are frosty but as the days pass, they realise they have more in common, in terms of both background and values, than they first thought.

It’s a contrived narrative but Twisters is worth the price of admission.  A few supporting players are caricatures (e.g. the English journalist, the property-buying cowboy) but the three leads do a great job in creating plucky characters.  After the success in recent months of Anyone but You and Hit Man, Glen Powell has mastered the art of creating a likeable protagonist caught up in a cheesy, unrealistic scenario.  Daisy Edgar Jones (Where the Crawdads Sing) and Anthony Ramos (In the Heights) also give it everything with their emotive roles.

Director Lee Isaac Chung is a natural when it comes to the action genre.  The pace is fast, the visual effects are convincing, and the sounds are epic.  I found myself caught up in the excitement of key scenes as the heroes extricated themselves from tornado-related terror (while superfluous folk got sucked up into the sky).  See it on a big, big screen!