The 5th Wave

he 5th Wave is a science fiction thriller film based on the novel of the same name by Rick Yancey. The film was directed by J. Blakeson, with a screenplay written by Susannah Grant, Akiva Goldsman and Jeff Pinkner, produced by GK Films in cooperation with Material Pictures and distributed by Columbia Pictures.

Cassie takes an instant liking of Evan, without realising that he harbours a dark secret – he is in fact one of ‘The Others’.

The film tells the story of Cassie Sullivan, as she struggles to survive the invasion of hostile, technologically superior extraterrestrials, referred to through the film as ‘The Others’, while searching for her little brother she became separated from during the evacuation of a refugee camp.

Cassie (Chloë Grace Moretz) is an ordinary teen girl living her fairly uneventful life in her family home in Ohio, US. This all changes however when all of a sudden, an enormous alien spaceship appears in the sky above her estate. It soon becomes apparent that the visitors from outer space aren’t here on a peace mission, but came with the intention to eradicate humankind, conquer Earth and make it their new home.

The alien invasion comes in the form of 5 ‘waves’ (note the ‘subtle’ hint in the title). First, an electromagnetic pulse knocks out all electrical equipment. Communication is disrupted, power is cut off, vehicles stop working and planes fall from the sky. Next, a massive tsunami (so, ahem, an actual wave) engineered by the invaders devastates coastal areas, killing thousands and forcing millions from their homes. Following that, the Avian Flu, weaponised by the alien aggressors, spreads like wildfire through the populace, causing a global pandemic further decimating the remnants of humanity. Cassie’s mother, Lisa (Maggie Siff) is among the countless victims who succumb to the disease, after which Cassie leaves home with her father and younger brother in search of a safer place, which they eventually find in a small refugee camp in the woods.

The aliens come in the form of a parasite that attaches itself onto a brain of its victim and takes full control of its human host.

A few days later, an army unit arrives at the camp and its commander Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber) informs the survivors that the fourth ‘wave’ of the invasion is under way, when aliens, taking over human hosts, infiltrate groups of survivors and dispatch snipers, who lay in waiting at strategic positions in urban areas as well as prowl the countryside in hunt of their human prey. Vosch also claims that there is an imminent threat to the camp, for which reason he orders to load all the children onto a school bus in order to take them to safety. The adults, in the meantime, are rounded up in a shed, where they are explained by the soldiers that they must remain there until it will be determined whether there aren’t any aliens in human disguise amongst them. A scuffle breaks out when some of the detainees draw their hand guns and demand to be released, shots are fired, then the soldiers panic and fire into the crowd indiscriminately, massacring all the adults including Cassie’s father.

Cassie, who narrowly misses the departing bus with her little brother Sammy (Zackary Arthur) aboard, witnesses the massacre but manages to hide from the soldiers. Armed with the M4 carbine she finds on the body of a dead soldier, Cassie runs into the woods, starting her arduous journey across deserted towns and countryside, bit-by-bit edging towards the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in a bid to find her brother. Alas, her journey is cut short when she is shot in the leg by an unseen sniper after she walks onto the motorway congested with broken-down cars. Cassie tries to crawl under one of the vehicles to shield herself from the subsequent bullets, but before she manages to do it, she blacks out. When she, some days later, regains her consciousness, she finds herself in a bed inside a small house in the forest, and soon meets its owner Evan Walker (Alex Roe). Evan explains that he carried her here after she passed out when being shot and was treating her wound for the past few days, preventing her from bleeding to death. Cassie, who is rapidly recovering from her injury and regaining her strength, quickly develops a fondness for, rather handsome, Evan, but then runs away from his house after finding her handgun hidden in a secret compartment under loose floorboards, contrary to Evans’s assurance that he found no gun on her, when she was enquiring about the weapon given to her by her father. Evans catches up with Cassie in the woods and regains her trust by explaining that he couldn’t be sure whether she is not one of The Others. Reassured, Cassie resumes her journey towards the Air Force base, this time accompanied by Evan.

At the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the children are divided into smaller groups, given squad leaders, and trained as soldiers.

In the meanwhile at the Air Force Base, the children, who were taken here previously, are being divided into smaller groups, given squad leaders, and trained as soldiers. Some time into their training, Colonel Vosch rallies his juvenile troops and explains that the aliens have commenced the 5th wave of the invasion, during which they will be finishing off the decimated remnants of the human population. He also reveals his plan to take the fight back to the enemy by means of a special head-up display developed by the resistance scientists, that can instantaneously tell The Others in human disguise from the genuine human survivors. Beside the HUD, all child soldiers are equipped with a tracking chip, which is injected under the skin on the nape. Individual squads, among them one containing Cassie’s brother Sammy, are then dropped into the nearby town where they start engaging the enemy. Always the rebel, squad leader Ringer (Maika Monroe) removes the tracker chip from her nape, causing her suddenly appearing as being infected by an alien parasite on other soldiers’ HUDs. The remaining squad members start freaking out and pointing their rifles at Ringer, being convinced that their unit has been infiltrated by one of The Others, but only until another team member and former love interest of Cassie, Ben Parish a.k.a. Zombie (Nick Robinson) removes his own chip, with the same result. At that moment, it suddenly dawns on the kids that they have been hoodwinked: Instead of them fighting off the 5th wave of the alien invasion, it is they – mal-informed and manipulated child soldiers – who are the 5th wave, unwittingly helping The Others to finish off the hapless survivors of the first four ‘waves’ of the invasion, who all appear in their HUDs as aliens, unless they are equipped with the electronic chip that negates this effect.

In the end, Evan’s human side prevails and he helps the children defeat the invaders by planting explosive charges and blowing up the whole alien training facility.

Back in the forest and some time into their trek, Cassie and Evan are ambushed by two alien snipers, but Evan fights them off, using what looks like super-human strength, making Cassie realise that he is in fact also one of The Others. Cassie leaves Evan and continues in her journey on her own, but not before learning from Evan, who struggles between his loyalty to The Others and his human roots reinforced by his feelings for Cassie, the true nature of the ‘5th wave’ and the real purpose of the alien training facility at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

In the end, Cassie and Evan converge at the Air Force Base, where Cassie reunites with her little brother Sammy and the rest, and Evan’s human side prevails when he helps the children defeat the aliens by planting explosive charges and blowing up the whole training facility, but not before Colonel Vosch with the majority of The Others flee the scene in military helicopters, thus leaving the door open for a possible sequel (as The 5th Wave is based on the first book in a trilogy of novels, speculations are rife that the producers would be keen to spin The 5th Wave as the new Hunger Games and turn the film’s main protagonist, Cassie Sullivan into the ‘next Katniss Everdeen’).

Although the book’s fan base might find the film adaptation to their overall satisfaction, not even a fairly solid performance from Chloë Grace Moretz and several other main protagonists could save The 5th Wave from ending up as yet another mediocre alien-invasion, post-apocalyptic, young-adult flick.

TRIVIA: Staged explosion of a bus for the film in downtown Macon, Georgia went awry, blowing out windows in dozens of stores, collapsing ceilings and setting one building on fire.