Review: San Andreas
After the San Andreas fault gives, triggering a 9 on the richter scale in California, a search and rescue helicopter pilot and his estranged wife make their way together from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a mission to save their only daughter.
The action starts with a demonstration of Chief Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson) skill as a first responder when Natalie, a college student, runs her car off a cliff’s edge after the first preliminary earthquake tremor. The scene is tense and tentative as the car, and Natalie’s safety hang in the balance. Little does Ray know that this is only a precursor of what is yet to come.
In the calm before the storm, we meet Ray’s family. Ray’s daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario), his soon to be ex-wife Emma (Carla Gugino) and her new partner Daniel (Ioan Grufford).
The story concurrently follows seismologist Laurence (Paul Giamatti) as he studies the tectonic activity of the San Andreas fault line from Nevada to California and predicts everything that is about to happen. When he is proved right, he and his Caltech team together with a news crew try and reach the media outlets in a desperate bid to warn the population. It is the seismology story that provides the narrative structure of the disaster that ensues.
A well timed phone call between Ray, whilst piloting his helicopter unites him with Emma, when the tremors first hit Los Angeles, then they are both propelled into an edge-of-your-seat rescue mission to locate Blake in the aftermath of the second quake in San Francisco.
Through another concurrent point of view, we follow Blake’s story as she gets separated from Daniel during the panic but battles through the disaster zone with her new found companions – brothers Ben and Ollie. She is a smart girl – calmly portrayed by Alexandra Daddario – who has learnt a lot from her dad about survival techniques and with her team-mates, cuts a path through the chaos, diverted from where the crowds of survivors are headed, in search of a safe – and high – place to wait for rescue as per Ray’s instructions.
Director Brad Peyton tells an excellent story about a family’s fight to be reunited through all the devastation of a natural disaster. The women are strong characters, not damsels in distress, with great action scenes and true grit. Over 1000 impressive special effects created by cutting-edge technology are combined with in-camera work which gets up close and personal to the main cast with some interestingly gutsy camera angles. Follow Ray and Emma as they travel relentlessly across land, air and sea making the 400 mile trek northerly on a journey stricken with everything that Mother Nature can possibly throw at them. Dead ends and bad luck are no match for the robust pair as they soldier on whilst the city landscape around them is devastated by demolished buildings, fire and tidal waves – all the events an earthquake of such magnitude could possibly cause.
Dwayne Johnson has really matured in his craft as an actor and effortlessly portrays the kind of hero many would aspire to be in any given situation. Carla Gugino is beautifully strong and fearless in the role and portrays a strength which balances the emotion and physicality of her character well enough to be a great match for action co-star Dwayne.
This family, whose characters are congenial and relatable, are a strong group of individuals. Where on the surface there are huge cracks in their relationship, deep down their true feelings for each other – whilst in a flight or fight mode – triggers a strength and determination to succeed in their goal to reunite above all the odds.
To be allowed into this family’s story is heartwarming amidst all the chaos of the action. The reconstruction of their family dynamic somehow runs parallel to the destruction of the world around them. Dramatic circumstances drove them apart and dramatic circumstances bring them back together. This family shares this with its audience with a deep emotional connection that resonates as genuine.
The stunts and disruption might leave you feeling slightly unsettled one moment and then the dialogue might have you chuckling the next, then the pace quickly and consistently changes again acknowledging an action packed adrenaline rush in a film where there is never a dull moment. Visually impacting, gripping and engaging, this movie has everything but the kitchen sink: action, special effects, drama, love, friendship, family, gentle comedy and great casting. They even managed to squeeze in a soundtrack which includes an interpretive version of the ’60’s classic “California Dreaming” specially performed and recorded by international artist Sia – which is heard at the story’s finale and end credits.
A great summer blockbuster. Not to be missed.
San Andreas is out in cinemas May 29.