Rocking the West Coast
Of course, there is a lot of exactly that – it’s a disaster movie after all – but doesn’t feel as egregious as say The Day After Tomorrow or 2012. What you get with San Andreas is a family drama that just happens to be set during an apocalyptic style earthquake. Also the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson!
The film starts off with Ray (Dwayne Johnson) who is a rescue chopper pilot saving a girl from a car. This immediately sets out Ray as an all American hero and all round nice guy, spouting the normal cliches that he is just doing his job, but we quickly learn that he has split from his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) after the death of one of their two children.
The majority of the rest of the film is Ray trying to save his ex-wife Emma and remaining daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) from certain death in the midst of the worlds biggest earthquake that rocks the entire San Andreas fault line. What is impressive though is that through all the on screen spectacle you never lose track of this family dynamic whether it be in the few quiet moments where Ray and Emma reflects on their broken marriage or whether it be Blake demonstrating her survival skills learned from her dad. this alone elevates it above a lot of other disaster movies.
It’s also nice to see the rock being slightly less macho in this; I mean sure he’s the rock and is about twice the size of a normal human so don’t expect a transformative role like Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler or Christian Bale in The Machinist, but there is one scene in particular where he emotes the reasons behind the divorce which is surprisingly touching and humble. You almost think the big man is going to let out a tear – now THAT would have been something.
Actually I’m just going to take the time to chuckle about how big he really is. There’s a scene where has to parachute into the middle of San Francisco and when he lands I couldn’t help but think “Come on… really?! You’re not helping keep tremors under control are you!!”
For the most part the chemistry between the family members is acceptable enough for this type of movie but don’t go in expecting a melodrama. With that in mind it’s probably not a massive shock when I say that Paul Giamatti delivers the best performance of the film. Paul plays Lawrence who is a seismologist and believes he has found a way to predict future earthquakes. This prediction method allows him to warn San Francisco of the impending doom and he races to broadcast a message to the same effect you really get the feeling that he is helpless and desperate.
What would have been nice in San Andreas is a serious discussion point on how we can better detect and prepare for earthquakes. At the end of the film it does refer you to check out further reading material but the we have just watched just over an hour and a half of CG enhanced spectacle that it’s hard not to be instantly dismissive.
So. Earthquakes. They are pretty damn scary in this film. There are enough heart in mouth and awe-stricken moments to keep you entertained throughout but it does suffer from a classic one-upmanship by trying to show more destruction, bigger buildings falling over crazier set pieces. There is a scene where Ray and Emma are on a boat in the San Fran harbour trying to out race a tsunami style tidal wave when they come face to face with a giant container ship.
No. Tidal Wave after world’s biggest recorded earthquake – danger enough!
Apart from a few over the top scenes the film is riddle with cliches. The worst is the line delivered to Lawrence at the end of the film: “Hey, you did good today”. Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd) the super handsome, wealthy and polite new man in Emma’s life turns out not to be Mr fantastic after all and therefore has to have an over the top death. And of course Blake has to find a new man in her life through all the chaos Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) – although to be fair to Ben… good lord Alexandra Daddario’s body!
Anyway enough of being shallow. If you like disaster movies however this is probably one of the better ones in recent years and even if you don’t the film has a lot to keep your interest even if it lacks the depth to make it a truly great film. The earthquakes are genuinely frightening which is rule number one in a film about earthquakes but doesn’t offer any real world implications. Even so, my next holiday: not San Francisco.
- An entertaining family drama
- Paul Giamatti
- Big ol’ earthquakes
- Full of cliches
- Over the top at times
- Lacks any real world learning opportunity