As a kid, growing up in Indiana, February was usually the month in which our schools would run begin to run exhaustive tornado safety drills on a weekly basis. Given that Indiana resides in the eastern wing of Tornado Alley, and March was the official start of tornado season, these seemingly excessive measures were actually quite necessary. I’ve lived through several tornadoes in my life, one of which chased us home from the Indy 500 one summer. I think back to that terrifying day now, and the one thing that really sticks with me…is how much it reminded me of Twister.
Given that Twister has just been added to Netflix’s Watch Instantly service, we hope you’ll consider giving it a spin.
Who Made It: Twister was directed by Jan de Bont, once a major force in the action genre. For many years, he worked as a cinematographer, shooting films like Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October, and Lethal Weapon 3. But then he gracefully crashed into the director’s chair with his debut film Speed. He would follow Twister with the unfortunate Speed 2: Cruise Control. Incidentally, the film was co-written by the late, great novelist Michael Crichton.
Who’s In It: The film stars Bill Paxton (Aliens) and Helen Hunt (Mad About You), but they are far from the only talent in the movie. Twister also stars Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride), Alan Ruck (Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and the great Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his more colorful roles.
What’s It About: A former storm-chaser, now working as a TV weatherman, returns to his old stomping grounds to force his estranged wife, also a storm-chaser, to sign their divorce papers. While there, he becomes entangled in a feud with another team adventure-seeking meteorologists over a tornado-tracking invention he developed that was then stolen by a rival. During the course of the feud, he rediscovers his love for the hunt as well as rekindling his relationship with his ex.
Why You Should Watch It:
As mid-nineties blockbusters go, Twister is one of my very favorites. The meteorological science at the heart of the film may be questionable, but its incredible action sequences are undeniable. The very concept at the core of the film creates a veritable playground of wanton destruction. Acting as the hand of God, or more likely director Jan de Bont, the tornadoes can literally throw anything and everything at the actors. Few films have the ability, within any semblance of reasonable context, to have a car speed down the highway only to drive directly through a two-story house that rolls into its path. The special effects in this movie, groundbreaking at the time, hold up remarkably well even today.
As if extreme weather conditions like tornadoes, and the decimation they leave in their wake, weren’t scary enough, Twister gives these forces of nature intelligence as well. They actually make the twisters, one in particular, sentient beings that actively chase our heroes; hunting them down like some sort of vengeful wraith. Helen Hunt even has a line in the film about the tornado that killed her father: “you haven’t seen it miss this house, and miss that house, and come after you.” That’s right, a tornado came after her family. It creates a formidable, tangible villain for the film out of something as ephemeral and elemental as the wind. It sounds really silly, mostly because it kind of is, but it creates some thrilling tension.
One of the biggest reasons to watch Twister is its cast. Bill Paxton, playing a character named Bill for continuity sake I suppose, has this bizarre mystic quality to him that affords him an almost telepathic connection to the storms. Helen Hunt is damned adorable and Cary Elwes as the smarmy rival meteorologist is an entertaining caricature. Philip Seymour Hoffman, as the borderline insane Dusty, is one of the film’s most memorable elements. He is a wild, kinetic engine of over-the-top goofiness that never runs out of steam. The entirety of our heroic storm-chasing team works so well together and many of the film’s most iconic scenes involve their riding in a convoy alongside the roaring, conniving twister.