The 5th Wave

By Tim McEown

Mailed on January 26, 2016

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Dear Ron Livingston
Supporting Actor

Dear Ron,

Supporting roles are an interesting barometer—they can tell you a lot about the film as whole. If they are well rounded, interesting and memorable often times the rest of the movie follows suit. If they are forgettable, paper thin, and flaccid, chances are it will be difficult to avoid an inadvertent nap.

Suffice it to say, Ron, I left the The 5th Wave feeling unexpectedly well rested.

I have a real soft spot for you as an actor. Your folksy portrayal as “Nix” (often tinged with a hint of a pretty dark interior life) in Band Of Brothers really engaged me. Even a film as throwaway as Office Space was elevated by your quiet—and sort of weird—reverse charisma. It is as if the less you speak the more interesting you become.

Going into the screening of The 5th Wave—which according to the trailer I saw, looked like the best I could hope for was a cookie cutter dystopian narrative made with a kind of minimal competence (see: Maze Runner: Scorch Trials et al)—I was at least hoping I could lean on your performance as a something to keep me engaged.

Instead you got was about seven minutes of utterly forgettable screen time, and while you were building your second pool with the paycheck this film afforded you, I was left floundering with a film that was passionless, disinterested in its own premises, and often horribly miscast. How otherwise to explain another fine supporting actor like Liev Schreiber coming off even more rail thin and hollow than your portrayal as “The Dad” of Chloe Moretz’s turn at the Chosen One motif.

Sometimes films that generally aren’t that great have something that helps them rise above their own limitations. Last year’s The End of The Tour (in which you also had a small part) was made greater than the sum of its parts partially on the strength of a supporting cast that included you, Joan Cusak, and Becky Anne Baker. But for that to happen, there has to be far more commitment and interest in the material than I got from anyone attached to this film—other than Moretz, who labored, unsuccessfully, to invest her character with something emotionally meaningful.

That The 5th Wave is largely a waste of its 38 million dollar budget obviously isn’t on your shoulders. The direction is workmanlike at best, the genre tropes are so tired that they may as well have just been written out on title cards—obligatory montage where various plagues and disasters reduce the population to numbers our budget and capabilities can manage. Even the visuals feel like mid-level FX network series quality.

But I suppose what I had hoped for was that your attachment to The 5th Wave meant perhaps the script, or even the performances, would somehow rise above the limitations of listless direction or poorly conceived genre tropes. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

I hope you at least enjoy the pool, Ron.



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