Director: Brad Peyton
Writer: Carlton Cuse
Cast: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Carla Cugino, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giamatti, Archie Panjabi, Ioan Gruffudd, Kylie Minogue.
Some movies do nothing wrong, are not perfect, but are just a fun ride. This is one of those movies. If you are looking for a perfectly fine film-going experience that is thrilling and action-packed then this is the summer blockbuster tailor-made for your pleasures, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Further cementing his role as the go-to guy for action adventure movies, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson anchors this natural disaster movie that taps into every Californian’s nightmare of what could happen when tectonic plates shift too much and wreak havoc on the Golden State. The San Andreas fault is very much real, and it is a source of concern which this movie really takes advantage of.
Johnson plays family man Ray, an emergency fireman used to dangerous rescues mostly performed while operating a helicopter in very precarious circumstances. He is in the process of divorcing his wife Emma (Carla Cugino), but this has not affected his role as a doting and protective father to his college-aged daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario). Paul Giamatti plays a college professor and researches who studies seismic activities and eventually is able to predict a massive earthquake event that will wreak havoc in California, especially the cities of Los Angeles (where Ray and Emma are) and San Francisco (where Blake happens to be). Connecting the two men in the movie is reporter Serena, who doesn’t do much but is played by Archie Panjabi, of The Good Wife and The Fall fame (as well as Bend it Like Beckham), whom I absolutely adore as an actress and would watch in anything.
The movie is clunky and awkward when it tries to handle serious moments like conversations over the death of Ray and Emma’s daughter years earlier and the cause of their marital strife, but thankfully these moments are few and far between. There are also some other interesting cameos, mostly to boast star-wattage and body counts (uh… hey there, Kylie Minogue?!?!). The special effects in the movie are really good, superior in fact to many films out there. There will be a strong need for the audience to suspend disbelief throughout the entire raucous and adrenaline-pumped movie because some of the instances in which some characters survive are laughable and preposterous in their serendipity, but who cares? The movie is fast-paced and fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. All the right notes for a fun night out watching a movie.
One thing that really impressed me about this movie is the role of Ray and those around him. Usually in films like this there is one man, as in male, who is the ultimate savior and without whom all the other characters, if not humanity, would be doomed. Even more ridiculous is that sometimes said man is unbelievable in this role (see: John Cusack in 2012), at least Johnson is someone I would trust with my life. This film, however, puts him in the role of a concerned father who realizes that he cannot do much, especially alone and that leads Emma to be important in the quest to save their daughter, allowing her to stretch (even slightly) beyond the role of damsel in distress. The revelation, though, is Blake. Trying to survive with the company of two British brothers, she proves herself as a strong and wise young woman who makes fast and effective decisions that ensure her survival during massive earthquakes and all the mess that accompanies them.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film and how much fun I had throughout. I definitely recommend it. It is not a masterpiece by any means, but sometimes we don’t want a masterpiece, we just want a fun movie while watching popcorn that makes us face some primal fears of death in the most entertaining way possible.