Friday 17 May 2019

The Quake (Norway 2018: Dir John Andreas Andersen)

"I can't even imagine the nightmare you have been through. But that doesn't mean disasters follow you." Sadly for Kristian Eikjord (Kristoffer Joner) - but happily for the viewer - that's not the case here. Fans of disaster movies will hopefully have caught Roar Uthaug's 2015 movie The Wave, which depicted the story of the 85 foot high tsunami that swept through the Norwegian fjord town of Geiranger taking the lives of 248 people, and was remarkable not only for its special effects but also the care taken to depict, with levels of integrity not normally seen in this genre, the world of the characters affected by the event.

The Quake is set three years after the Geiranger disaster. Eikjord, the worried geologist who had predicted the arrival of the tsunami in The Wave, returns, with his wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp), son Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) and daughter Julia (Edith Haagenrud-Sande). However the family are not together. Idun and the kids have relocated to Oslo, while Kristian, clearly suffering from PTSD, has remained in Geiranger 310 kilometres away, still finding it difficult to come to terms with the human loss of the tsunami, even though he was responsible for saving the lives of many, including his family.

When his friend and fellow geologist Konrad Linblom dies in a tunnel collapse just outside the city, Kristian travels to Oslo, and finds in Lindblom's apartment both his daughter Marit (Kathrine Thorborg Johansen) and a huge amount of research, which concludes that the Norwegian capital is about to experience a massive earthquake. Kristian's recent mental health issues mean that - surprise, surprise - his protestations about imminent disaster fall on deaf ears with the authorities. Kristian reunites with his family just in time for them to be separated again as disaster strikes the city.

The quake hits in, er, The Quake
Like The Wave before it, the actual disaster in The Quake is relatively brief, but unlike the previous movie, which became a little hesitant post tsunami, this film builds on the tension of the earthquake and never lets up for a minute afterwards. The Quake has all the standard elements of the disaster movie; the maverick who was right all along; the authorities who don't want to believe him; the sacrificial expert whose death is the key to the unfolding of events; the estranged family reunited over tragedy. But Andersen handles these cliches expertly, making them crucial elements of the movie rather than a series of eye rolling moments.

Kristoffer Joner is suitably addled as Eikjord, his unswerving conviction about his theories believably battling with the need to be with his family (there a lovely scene near the beginning of the film where Julia comes to stay, only to be sent home again as Kristian realises that he's not fit to be a parent to her). The family are all well cast but special praise must be given to Edith Haagenrud-Sande as Julia; her wide eyed and artless performance, capturing in her face what it means to live with separated parents, is exceptional.

And when disaster strikes, the special effects are phenomenal, made more spectacular by the sparing use of them. Andersen knows that shots of collapsing office blocks, parks and streets will only have a lasting impact if they're framed by very human stories, and this he achieves. The Quake may not have the ending you were expecting; it's a disaster movie that doesn't always play by the rules, which makes it unmissable.

The Quake is out on HD and DVD from 20th May 2019.

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