It’s been a while since we last had a full-scale disaster movie (think Armaggedon, Independence Day), so why not a homegrown product (it was shot on the Gold Coast) starring the man-mountain The Rock?
Lawrence (Paul Giamatti) is a seismologist with a nose for big earthquakes and one is about to hit the USA between Los Angeles and San Francisco, turning both cities into disaster zones. Ray (Dwayne Johnson) is a brave search and rescue pilot estranged from his wife Emma (Carla Gugino – Night at the Museum). The pair lost a daughter who drowned, something Ray didn’t deal with well. But they have another gorgeous daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario – Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters), who has grown up to be the apple of daddy’s eye. Now Ray’s soon to be ex-wife is about to move in with the wealthy new man in her life when all hell breaks lose.
Ray manages to find all manner of craft – a helicopter, light plane, SUV and jet boat – in a life and death struggle to try to rescue his wife and daughter as the world around them crumbles. Incidentally, through adversity Balke finds herself paired up with a charming English lad, who has an equally polite and inquisitive younger brother. And our very own Kylie (Minogue, that is) has a cameo role as Emma’s new beau’s bitchy sister.
Like so much of this kind of material, San Andreas plays to type. Mind you, I couldn’t think of anyone better to play the “he” man in such horrendous circumstances than Johnson. He is your quintessential square jawed, Chesty Bonds action hero, who knows the right thing to do and say when the chips are down. And, naturally, as skyscrapers are falling all around them, Ray succeeds in maneuvering through the mayhem by the skin of his teeth. While not quite managing to leap tall buildings, his ability to adeptly steer a speed boat knows no bounds when it comes to outrunning a tsunami. Somehow, with debris scattered everywhere and more buildings collapsing, there is always a path through for the vessel, as his mission to rescue his daughter becomes the prime focus on his life. I almost forgot to mention, Johnson wouldn’t be The Rock were he not to rescue a few dozen others along the way who, but for him, would have been flattened.
Notwithstanding the strain of credibility in plot, I loved the effects in San Andreas. It looked mighty. You could almost feel the power, the force of the destruction. Cities became domino playthings for these filmmakers. Perhaps I was just in the right frame of mind to lose myself in the moment and let the contents of this big bold actioner wash over me, complete with its glib one-liners and clichés? For I just had fun with it. Think too much about it though and soon enough you will let cynicism get in the way of pleasure, so don’t … sit back and enjoy the ride.
Rated M, San Andreas scores a 6½ out of 10.
Director: Brad Peyton
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Ioan Gruffudd, Alexandra Daddario and Paul Giamatti
Release Date: 28 May 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television