The Movie Waffler New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - THE QUAKE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - THE QUAKE

the quake review
Sequel to the breakout 2015 Norwegian disaster movie The Wave.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: John Andreas Andersen

Starring: Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Edith Haagenrud-Sande, Kathrine Thorborg Johansen, Jonas Hoff Oftebro

the quake poster

The Quake, a Norwegian disaster film, is the sequel to The Wave (wherein the catastrophe is a tsunami to The Quake’s temblor), which was Norway’s bid for Foreign Film honours at the 2015 Oscars. It looks alright, too, The Wave, locating its upheaval in persuasively scary scientific contexts and verisimilitudinous realisations of disaster. Here, we even pick up with the central characters of the predecessor: a beleaguered geologist (Kristian: Kristoffer Joner) and his, now estranged, family. For obvious reasons, sequelisation of disaster films is an intriguing rarity (soft spot for Beyond the Poseidon Adventure here), although the distributors have decided against the (potentially amazing) title, 'The Wave 2: Quake' or similar, most likely in an attempt to sell this solid genre product to global audiences as a singular proposition, a venture which The Quake largely pulls off.

the quake review

The Hollywood disaster movie is almost exclusively the province of The Rock, these days: big pricey displays need big profitable four quadrant appeals, after all (although the reportedly disappointing returns of Skyscraper indicate the financial risk inherent to the genre). Are disaster films the apex of mainstream, blockbuster cinema? Everything is bigger: the spectacle, the stars, the stakes. Like the big screen was made for seeing the world burn in variously exciting ways. After all, our most popular films ever are disaster films (Titanic and Avengers: Endgame, the latter if you squint a bit). Where does The Quake fit in with such an extravagant hegemony?

Character is the explicit focus here, with our everyman hero experiencing an extended survivor’s guilt, and the film focussing on the bleak aftermath of the Tsunami three years earlier. The USP is developed as we find out Kristian’s wife has left him and he’s gone tonto, doing that thing of obsessively blu-tacking maps and images (mainly of people who died in the disaster) up in his spare room and not shaving. Nonetheless he’s on it though, and, through his compulsive monitoring of seismic activity, discerns that Oslo could be in for the big one (an ominous end subtitle reminds us that Norway is the most active place in Europe for earthquakes - yikes!).

the quake review

Does anyone listen to him though? Do they fuck. Because, despite its convincingly detailed character work, The Quake is reassuringly privy to the same sort of tropes and clichés that the genre is built on. The teen son has a hot girlfriend whom he’ll be able to prove himself to at some point, the littlest child wanders off inopportunely (you’d think that having survived a tsunami she’d know better). The Quake also does a solid job of establishing that tummy-dread which the first act of all disaster movies should have, although, as the film progresses, the problem is that there is a bit too much screen time devoted to broken and beaten Kristian. Consequently, you may feel that dread dissipating into something more akin to indifference as we are given more of his haunted features, his ambivalent relations with his family, his Cassandra like situation within the narrative.

the quake review

But hang in there, literally: as the end sequence is a vertiginous all timer. When the disaster does strike, it is incredible. I actually squealed at how thrillingly horrific it all was: we see it all, from massive glass and steel skyscrapers keeling over, to vast swathes of land just crumbling away into the freshly opened depths below. Furthermore, The Quake balances macro spectacle with the resultant effects, zooming in to interiors wherein people scramble against falling debris and unaccountable gravity. A thought: is the reason for the disaster film’s perennialism not the repeated visions of destruction, but the minutiae of characters helping each other, working together and even sacrificing themselves (… there’s just something in my eye, etc)? The mighty denouements of The Quake are as agonising as they are awe inspiring, with steadfast humanity triumphing over harrowing spectacle.

The Quake is on DVD and Digital May 20th.

2019 movie reviews