San Andreas (12A/PG-13, 114 mins)
Director: Brad Peyton
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
A disaster movie of the old school, albeit one with lavish amounts of modern technology at its disposal, San Andreas is an enjoyably silly action ride that benefits from lowered expectations and no pretensions of being anything other than fun.
Dwayne Johnson, fresh from revitalising the Fast and Furious franchise, now has to save the whole of California when the San Andreas fault-line decides now is its time to fall into the Pacific, causing an enormous earthquake that wrecks most of the state. Or more specifically he has to save his daughter (Alexandra Daddario) who is trapped in San Francisco while he and his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) are in Los Angeles. Johnson is a helicopter rescue pilot who, for reasons not explored, isn’t required to actually rescue anyone during the earthquake but instead makes the trip up the coast for his family, delivering well-timed quips along the way.
The blueprint is a familiar one, opening with a rescue scene, followed by some sciencey stuff (Paul Giamatti is the seismologist who sees the quake coming), followed by character intros and family stuff and dealings in personal problems that don’t really belong. It’s all filled with honking dialogue that no one would ever say, but really all you're looking for from this kind of thing is pleasing spectacle and some people to care about.
So the Hoover Dam disintegrates, the whole of downtown Los Angeles ripples like a rug and the Golden Gate Bridge gets washed away in scenes that are often properly harrowing. It’s one of those movies where thousands of people are dying off screen, but we deal with only a handful, which is pretty much how it needs to be for focus.
The well spaced out tremors and sequences of peril build in intensity to some quite astonishing levels of devastation once the city starts collapsing, and the CGI is at times miraculous. We’re not here for anything else, and in terms of terror and chaos, this cheesy adventure really hits the spot and is every bit as good and as bad as it needs to be.