San Andreas won’t be for everyone. There are people who will view this movie in the way it wasn’t intended. They will see the huge plot holes, the incredulous events, the ridiculous decisions and the often very cheesy moments and be turned off, shaking their head and calling the movie “silly.” Which it is – it is silly. If you view the movie as such though, it is fantastic!
The movie isn’t trying to be anything more than a mindless, popcorn blockbuster and if you turn your brain off, engage your suspension of disbelief and let the movie take you on the intended ride, I guarantee you will be thrilled, pushed to the edge of your seat and sat with a grin plastered across your face. The film grabs you from the outset.
San Andreas’ action is graphic. It doesn’t sugar-coat anything and the opening sequence, which sees a girl stuck in her car, teetering on the edge of a cliff, is presented in gritty realism. You will wince with every crashing turn and roll of the vehicle but then cheer when the cavalry, led by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, do show-up to save the day. It sets the tone for the whole film and never relents from that point on.
It is a huge strength of the movie that it is so forth-right and action-focused. It isn’t long before the ground is shaking and people are being thrown from buildings, dangling precariously or being crushed by falling debris. It is all as realistic as you’d hope and can be quite brutal without ever being a gore-fest.
It means we get everything from people trapped in vehicles, running along falling ground or piloting helicopters between crashing buildings. The ideas are ridiculous and I’m sure the physics behind it are false but if you let your disbelief go, then you can get really caught-up in the action.
Suspension of disbelief is needed throughout as you will see boats scale vertical waves, people hold their breath for amazingly long times and some of the most convenient coincidences you will ever come across. It is all worth it to see Dwayne Johnson do what he does best – be heroic.
He is the movies biggest strength. He plays such a down-to-earth, injured soul who has nothing but good intentions, even when met with his estranged wife’s new fiancé. He is also great at the heavy-lifting (both physically and metaphorically). From the opening scene where he saves the girl in the car to the improbable final act involving his daughter – You are rooting for him from his first, very cool appearance.
His family does a good job too – even if they are playing slightly clichéd characters. His wife is brave when it suits but can also produce a good, helpless damsel-in-distress act when the film requires it too. The same can be said for Johnson’s daughter, played by Alexandra Daddario, who goes from being an expert in surviving natural disasters to helpless and screaming. It works because the movie needs it too but at times it feels very improbable.
Which is the issue that stops me giving San Andreas a 5 (and I almost did). It plays it too safe. There are times when the film can be slightly different but it never makes that final push. The action sequences are great but you know the outcomes and can guess where the story is going – even when the film has ample opportunity to steer it in another direction. This is most notable in the final act, where the movie almost takes a huge riss then plays it all too safely. This is then followed by a very cringe-inducing, patriotic punch-to-the-stomach that leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
Overall, San Andreas is a great movie if you view it with the right mentality. If you suspend your disbelief and just enjoy the great action-sequences, the excellent effects and the incredulous but very cool set-pieces, then you should have an entertaining time. Add Dwayne Johnson as the perfect, archetypal action hero and you have a film that fits perfectly in the blockbuster, mid-summer line-up.
Rating – 4.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)