Film review: San Andreas (12A) ***

Carla Gugino and Dwayne Johnson try to escape an earthquake in San Andreas

Carla Gugino and Dwayne Johnson try to escape an earthquake in San Andreas

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In the closing moments of the computer effects-heavy disaster movie San Andreas, a tattered Stars And Stripes unfurls proudly on what remains of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

It’s the final, heavy-handed image of undaunted patriotism in a cliche-laden battle between puny mankind and mighty Mother Nature on the west coast of America.

Recent events in Nepal are still fresh in the mind as director Brad Peyton reduces cities to twisted rubble with a series of record-breaking earthquakes.

Any discomfiting shivers of real-life tragedy are quickly dispelled by the hoary dialogue in Carlton Cuse’s script and increasingly outrageous action sequences, which include the implausible sight of a rescue helicopter weaving between skyscrapers as they tumble into one another like giant metallic dominoes.

The best examples of the disaster genre, including The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno and Titanic, balance spectacular stunts with heart-breaking human drama, recognising that audiences need to feel emotionally attached to stricken characters in the midst of the sound and fury. Screenwriter Cuse short-changes us here, hastily sketching a fractured family that is destined to reunite in the eye of the storm.

The San Andreas Fault, which runs for more than 800 miles through California, gives way, triggering a magnitude 9 earthquake.

Leading man Dwayne Johnson looks physically pumped, taking to land, sea and air to reach his beloved daughter, while Carla Gugino simpers with pride at his gung-ho antics

Search and rescue helicopter pilot Chief Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) hunts for survivors including his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino), who has filed for divorce so she can pursue a new relationship with wealthy real estate developer Daniel Reddick (Ioan Gruffudd).

Reunited in tragedy, Ray and Emma head to San Francisco to save their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario), who has joined forces with a handsome Brit called Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) to survive the devastation.

Just when it seems the worst is over for the Gaines family, a doom-saying professor (Paul Giamatti) at California Institute of Technology predicts a bigger earthquake and a massive tsunami from which there will be no escape.

The leading man looks physically pumped, taking to land, sea and air to reach his beloved daughter, while Gugino simpers with pride at his gung-ho antics.

In the parallel plot strand, Daddario and Johnstone-Burt play out a sweet, yet lukewarm romance to justify their survival while thousands around them perish.

Digital effects vary wildly in quality but Canadian composer Andrew Lockington is consistent with his bombastic orchestrations. His thunderous beats and booming strings fittingly make the ground shake.

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