Review by James Lindorf
It has been 104 years since the last major earthquake hit the city of Oslo. Director John Andreas Andersen’s The Quake answers the question: what if the next one isn’t years from now, but tomorrow? The Quake is a sequel to 2015’s Norwegian hit, The Wave, and reunites the writing team and the four main characters. It has been three years since an earthquake and landslide destroyed the town of Geiranger. Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) was a local geologist who managed to save his family, and many more, by recognizing the warning signs when others did not. Kristian spent most of those three years being revered as a hero by the public, but as his guilt over those he failed to save builds, he begins to become estranged from his wife, Idun (Ane Dahl Torp). Reaching her breaking point, Idun leaves him and takes their two children with her to Oslo. Now he will have to rescue his family and former colleagues, who all think he’s gone off the deep end, desperate to predict another disaster.
The Quake’s returning scriptwriters, John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg, laid out a story of shifting family dynamics that, while building on the events in The Wave, is strong enough to stand on its own. The brief introduction to Kristian and the previous events is enough to understand what has happened to his character in the interim. The script might have been slightly stronger if we’d had one more scene where we were shown Idun reaching her breaking point. She was willing to leave him and take Julia and Sondre with her, but it is clear she is still in love with him. He is still admired by the older Sondre and is the closest thing to a superhero for Julia. More of a divide between the characters or that extra scene would have cemented their current relationships.
John Andreas Andersen was able to step into the team and direct them in a way that prized the humanity of his characters over pricy effects. That doesn’t mean the film skimps on destruction, some of the disaster sequences rival anything put out by big budget Hollywood films. The film is more of a slow burn, compared to films like 2012 or San Andreas where there is the briefest of setups in the race to destruction. The focus of the film is Kristian, as he wallows in self-punishment and yearns to reconnect with his family. One disaster tore them apart, and maybe a second can bring them together, which only further drives his obsession to make an accurate prediction. Andersen’s choice in camerawork emphasizes each portion of the film. A steady camera and a muted color palette add to the somber feeling of the film during the character-focused moments. Once the disaster is imminent, however, the film is brighter, and they switch to a handheld camera to add to the frantic feel of the earthquake.
The Quake will be released in theaters and VOD on December 14th. It featured plenty of action and an emotional story not found in a disaster film, possibly since Titanic.
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