PG-13 for violence and destruction, some sci-fi thematic elements, language and brief teen partying | In Theaters 1/22 | Ok for Kids 13+ | Columbia/Sony | Reel Review: 4 of 5 Reels | The 5th Wave

We've seen a lot of teen dystopian movies lately - "The Hunger Games," "The Giver," "Divergent" and "The Maze Runner" among them. I love stories where youngsters take on the world, fight against the odds, form alliances, summon inner strength, fall in love... and since the books these movies are adapted from are so popular, I'm not the only one.

"The 5th Wave" is based on the best-selling YA novel by Rick Yancey, and there are two more books in the series - "The Infinite Sea" (2014) and "The Last Star" (upcoming in 2016). The ending of "The 5th Wave" sets things up for a sequel, so we'll see how the box office numbers shake out. I really hope they continue the franchise, partly because I love that it centers on a strong female character.

The story follows Ohio teen Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz), whose life revolves around her family and friends, not to mention one cute football star named Ben Parish (Nick Robinson). But her world is turned upside down when a mysterious extra-terrestrial force begins attacking the planet. The attacks come in waves - wiping out the electricity, causing natural disasters, bringing a killer virus, and so on.

Cassie and her little brother Sam (Zackary Arthur) end up in a refugee camp with their dad (Ron Livingston). But when the military, led by Col. Vosch (Liev Schreiber), takes over, Cassie is separated from Sam. So she embarks on a journey to find him, meeting the handsome and mysterious Evan Walker (Alex Roe) along the way.

As with most book adaptations, it's a challenge to fit everything into a couple of hours on the big screen. But there's still a lot to love here. Moretz is a gifted actress, everyone is handsome, and the budding love triangle between Cassie, Ben and Evan is just starting to heat up.

There's also a good supporting cast, including tough-as-nails Ringer (Maika Monroe) and Parish's brainy squad-mate Dumbo  (Tony Revolori), among others.  The script could have used some help, but that's ok. The filmmakers will strengthen it in the next movie, right? 

PARENT INFO: Violence in "The 5th Wave" includes apocalyptic catastrophes, deaths (including kids), gunfire, killer viruses, and several scenes of dead bodies. Romance includes a few passionate kisses, shirtless guys, and one scene of foreplay which apparently leads to sex (though it's not shown). Language includes one "f--king," as well as "s--t," "ass," "dumbass," "bulls--t," etc.).


One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.

Jane Boursaw is the film critic and editor-in-chief of Reel Life With Jane. Contact her at and check out the shop for fresh editorial content. Images used with permission of the studios and distributors.