2015 / Director. Brad Peyton.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
SAN ANDREAS is a massive piece of shit... and it's awesome!
When you've seen one disaster movie, you've seen them all. They generally follow a strict formula and we know exactly what to expect. There will be a hero. The special effects will be excessive. Thousands of people will die (but we're only meant to care about a few). And we're supposed to yell “America, Fuck Yeah!” at the end. SAN ANDREAS adheres to all of the above, but it also ditches a lot of the other conventional bullshit that usually comes with the genre.
The film opens up with an terribly executed piece of filmmaking. A girl drives her car off a cliff and Dwayne Johnson leads a rescue crew to save her. It's that introduction where the hero dips his sunglasses and says “Relax ma'am, we're here to save you” and of course things turn pear-shaped. The entire scene employs an unnecessary amount of bad CGI, which immediately instils concern. I was struck with that sinking feeling and suddenly thought to myself that it was going to be a long two hours. And then the disaster kicks in and there's no mucking around. An earthquake strikes Nevada and the film cranks into overdrive. This is a disaster movie that doesn't let up. The Earth rumbles and shakes and buildings collapse like dominos before the ground opens right up and starts devouring the metropolis like a kid would smash french fries. The fact that the destruction is relentless sets SAN ANDREAS apart from the typical disaster movie. Yes the script is flimsy. Yes the characters are irrelevant and yes it's entirely contrived... but it's so chaotic that there's little time for anything else. This saves us the boredom of political bullshit. There is no President. There is no National Guard and there are no strategical command centres. As viewers we are dropped right into the middle of the mayhem as an entire city crumbles upon us... and it's surprisingly thrilling.
Dwayne Johnson has a commanding presence on screen and allows his performance to be overshadowed by the whole unfolding spectacle. The supporting cast are also modest and resist the temptation for melodramatics. Paul Giamatti is the film's anchor and brings his weighty experience to the table. He plays the seismic professor who predicts the quake and does what he can to warn the country. His character is humble and less manufactured than most movies of this type allow and his moments of dread are what keep things glued together. He looks into the camera and you believe what he's saying.
SAN ANDREAS is clearly a cliched and generic piece of Hollywood shite. But it's also a whole lot of fun. You must switch off and let the genre consume you. It is a spectacle designed for theatrical audiences and it demands a giant screen and an epic sound system. To see it in a cinema is to feel the rumble in your gut and experience the exhilaration up close. You can chuckle at the cheesy lines and mumble “as if” under your breath and it's all part of the experience. Presumedly millions of people perish but thank God The Rock is safe!!! I guess there's only one thing for him left to do... “Rebuild!”.