Norwegian film “The Quake” is your typical disaster film just like its predecessor “The Wave” (2015). Again, we are served many familiar genre clichés and conventions, and the movie surely does not disappoint us once its big catastrophe strikes upon its main background and characters as expected later in the story, but I must confess that I could not help but wish during my viewing that it could have some fun with how preposterous its story premise is.
At the beginning, the movie shows how things have not gone well for Kristian Eikjord (Kristoffer Joner) and his family since what happened in “The Wave”. Although they fortunately survived that massive fjord tsunami and Kristian was regarded as the hero who saved many people at that time, Kristian remains haunted by the death of those numerous victims of the fjord tsunami, and that was the main reason why he and his wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) got divorced a few years ago.
Kristian has believed that the fjord tsunami was a mere prelude to something far more disastrous, and he becomes more convinced when a small but alarming incident in an underground tunnel near Oslo happens on one day. After coming to learn that an old colleague of his was inspecting the condition of that underground tunnel before getting himself killed during the incident, Kristian decides to delve more into the incident, and that is how he gets involved with Marit (Kathrine Thorborg Johansen), who is the daughter of Kristian’s dead colleague and is quite willing to show Kristian what her father was working on before his death.
It does not take much time before Kristian comes to realize that his worst nightmare may be more imminent than he imagined, so he tries to warn others about that, but, not so surprisingly, nobody pays much attention to his warning. While his colleagues show understandable skepticism because, as far as they can see, there has not been any particular seismic incident around Oslo, Kristian’s wife thinks her husband has not still recovered from their traumatic experience, and she keeps herself occupied with her new life and job.
While its first half is rather mundane and predictable to say the least, the movie slowly builds up the sense of dread and suspense as required, and it surely depends a lot on the increasingly agitated appearance of Kristoffer Joner, who did a convincing job of conveying to us his character’s traumatized psyche which is further trembled by the growing possibility of another catastrophe. As he previously did in “The Wake”, Joner keeps his performance straight throughout the film, and that is why, to some degree, we come to care about what may happen to him and his family.
As entering its second half, the movie gives us a number of ominous moments. There is a disturbing scene unfolded in a theater where Kristian’s young daughter is going to do her ballet performance in front of others (As some of you have already guessed, Kristian is too busy to come to see his daughter’s ballet performance, by the way), and there is also a small but chilling moment of revelation when Kristian comes to discern what exactly his dead colleague was checking in the underground tunnel.
Of course, when Kristian and Marit are about to do anything before it is too late for them and others, Oslo and its surrounding area are soon shaken by a massive earthquake, and director John Andreas Andersen and his crew members give us as a series of terribly spectacular moments to behold. Although the result may look rather modest compared to “San Andreas” (2015), special effects are utilized well on the whole, and the physical impacts during these moments are pretty palpable to say the least.
During the following aftermath of the earthquake, the movie maintains its level of tension as providing a number of intense scenes which may make you cringe for good reasons. After stuck in an elevator together during the earthquake, Kristian and Idun try to get out of the elevator, but they soon come across several potential dangers, and there is a very tense scene where Kristian desperately tries to save Idun while she is barely holding onto a wire. After stuck along with Kristian’s daughter on the top of a building which may collapse at any point, Marit tries as much as she can for saving herself as well as Kristian’s daughter, but the situation gets worse and worse for them, and we accordingly get a frightening sequence involved with the window glass getting cracked second by second under the weight of one of them.
However, despite these and other effective moments in the film, I often noticed how it feels rather flat compared to its predecessor. While “The Wave” distinguishes itself a bit thanks to its own local flavor and the earnest efforts from its cast and crew members, “The Quake” is not that distinctive compared to “San Andreas” and other similar urban disaster films, and it is also a little too humorless for its outrageous story premise, whose preposterousness is pointed out only once in the film as far as I can remember.
I give “The Quake” 2.5 stars mainly because it is one or two steps below its predecessor, but I will not deny that it is a competent genre piece which does its job as much as intended. Sure, there are more enjoyable disaster films out there, but it did not bore me at least, and I think you may have a fairly good time with it if you just do not expect much.