A traditional and yet very well executed disaster film that effectively detonates the San Andreas fault line that runs up much of the coast of California. The film’s release comes just after the recent devastating earthquakes in Nepal, and like all good disaster films this works precisely because there is a strong element of reality permeating the movie – things are taken to an extreme here, but if anyone remembers the quakes in L.A. in 1994 and the enormous amount of damage they caused it really is only a matter of time before the next large scale disaster happens in the area. Cinematically, this isn’t the first time the story has been told – 1974’s ‘Earthquake’ with Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner has, from memory, essentially the same storyline replete with early scenes on the Hoover Dam.
Paul Giamatti plays the scientist working on magnetic resonance technology that can help predict earthquakes coming – leading to several moments of him looking slowly up toward the camera to declare ‘no, it’s even worse!’ or words to that effect, but the main story surrounds fire department air rescue extraordinaire Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson), his ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino – look out for the scene that plants her firmly between the proverbial rock and a hard place) and their extremely fit and happily unsuitably dressed for the film daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) as all hell breaks loose throughout the Golden State and Ray tries desperately to save his family. Decent support from Ioan Gruffudd and Hugo Johnstone-Burt, and bizarrely there’s even an appearance by Kylie Minogue, but strong central performances from everyone make a big difference here, combined with a story that never feels too silly (well, almost never) and effects that convince throughout, making this one of the better of its kind of the past two decades.