Twister is fast-paced, thrilling and highly entertaining. It comes as no surprise that it’s directed by Jan de Bont, the man who brought us Speed, and written by Michael Crichton, the man who crafted Jurassic Park (Twister is also produced by Steven Spielberg). While the special effects are not as sharp as they now could be, the whirlwind visuals are still believably intense. Decent acting, mediocre dialogue and idiosyncratic characters make Twister a stimulating film to feast your eyes on, provided you don’t overanalyze the questionable reasons and methods of chasing down the dark side of nature.
Dr. Jo Harding (Helen Hunt) watched her father die at the hands of a brutally powerful tornado, and instead of fearing the deadly winds, she devotes her life to researching them. Working to advance the detection technology for storms, she hopes to prevent further deaths at the hands of Mother Nature. Her ex-husband Bill (Bill Paxton) was also an expert in the field, but now he only wants the divorce papers signed so he can move on with his life as a weatherman. When he meets up with Jo, she reveals a device that the two had been working on, now finally realized and fully operational. Sucked into the moment and itching for a chance to try out “Dorothy”, the machine that could revolutionize tornado warnings and research, Bill joins Jo and her group of scientists for a wild tornado-chasing adventure.
Bill, however, is joined by his fiance Melissa (Jami Gertz), who is steadily realizing that Jo is still in love with Bill. As the group travels across the Oklahoma countryside chasing down ruinous funnel clouds, Bill and Jo continually put their lives in danger for the chance to get Dorothy to work which requires the machine to be put in the damage path of a tornado. They are also hindered by Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes), a rival scientist who has corporate funding and therefore much better equipment but is still clearly outmatched by Bill’s knack for predicting weather. As the squabbling former couple get closer and closer to success with Dorothy, the dangers of chasing twisters quickly begins to take its toll.
The action and suspense is what makes Twister memorable and fun. When the daring duo take on an F5 tornado (the most destructive kind), get caught up in high-speed car chases, and dodge flying cows, semi-trucks and farm equipment, the intensity and thrills never cease. Borrowing methods from his highly successful previous film Speed, director Jan de Bont ensures that the action never lets up, and that urgency and suspense are always at the forefront of the story. While the romance between Jo and Bill frequently plays a role in their motives, it appropriately takes a back seat to the excellently paced thrills. Comedic elements are also thrown in to create a nearly perfect balance for this roller-coaster of a movie.
The special effects may not be quite up to standards compared to recent films, with the constant advances in technology, but Twister holds up surprisingly well, almost seamlessly integrating the massive tornados into the backgrounds and sets. Where the film becomes questionable is in its technology the reasoning behind the storm chasing crew and the materials available to them. Even if Twister accurately portrays professional bad weather scientists, nearly all of their ideas seem largely unlikely. But, like Speed, the believability is not of the utmost importance; the film exists as an escapist thriller, and delivers with every awe-inspiring tornado sequence.
Several supporting characters help to make the film unique, and the most noteworthy performance comes from Philip Seymour Hoffman, who even in a smaller, comical role proves that he has talents well beyond the character he portrays. Some of Twister may be overdramatic and other parts unbelievable, but with non-stop suspense, a rousing score by Mark Mancina, and massive destruction all around, this film is at the very least a lot of fun.