The Quake

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Quake
"Like its predecessor, the film does an impressive amount with an obviously limited budget."

In 1904, the city of Oslo was severely impacted by an earthquake, causing widespread panic and destroying a church. Today, Norway's Department of Earthquake Risk Centre says that it expects a major quake to affect the region at some point, though it has no idea when - the threat just hangs there like it does in San Francisco and most people have far too many other things going on to worry about it. After all, unless you're a geologist, you're not likely to detect the warning signs - and most geologists put their trust in automatic monitoring rather than worrying all the time.

Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) is an exception. If you saw him in The Wave, you'll understand why. Strangely, having been traumatised by a tsunami, he continues to live beside the same fjord, but he is at least above the peak tideline. His wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) has moved to Oslo where she lives with their daughter Julia (Edith Haagenrud-Sande, whose acting talent has developed considerably since the first film and who makes quite an impression). Son Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) is now studying at the city's university and has a serious girlfriend. Everybody has moved on with life except Kristian, who remains so deeply traumatised that his hands shake continually and he's been forced to leave his job. Although they're not unsympathetic, everybody's patience with him has worn thin.

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The story kicks off when Kristian uncovers new data hinting at seismic instability around Oslo. Naturally he warns his family and his old friends in relevant professions, and naturally they pass it off as further paranoia on his part. The story develops as it always does on such occasions. By the time anybody is ready to take him seriously, it's too late, and all he can do is try to save the ones he loves.

With nothing in the way of narrative surprise (except perhaps the willingness with which a former colleague's daughter agrees to assist him) the film relies on action and character-based drama. The fact that much of the latter draws heavily on The Wave means this film won't be as effective for people who haven't seen it. The writing here is weaker throughout and despite hard work from most of the actors it doesn't have the impact that it should. That said, it's better than many disaster movies in that at least there are some characters we can care about, and Haagenrud-Sande's contribution means we hope she survives as a person, not just because she's a token child in peril.

The action sequences vary quite a bit in quality. Like its predecessor, the film does an impressive amount with an obviously limited budget. People familiar with the city will doubtless enjoy seeing its iconic buildings crumble in the best movie tradition. The CGI isn't seamless. Some scenes take too long to play out and one, in particular, really needs to be followed by an intertitle saying 'missing reel' because of the way it elides the tricky task of getting our heroes out of their predicament. It succeeds in being scary, however, and you shouldn't go into it assuming that the family dynamic means everybody will be okay at the end.

Whilst some of the action sequences may be a bit silly (not something that disaster movie viewers tend to mind), the actual premise of the film is well developed, with realistic depictions of how scientific work is carried out. There's plenty of intelligence in this film and a fair amount of entertainment - it just may not make the earth move for you.

Reviewed on: 08 Dec 2018
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Could reports of tremors beneath the city of Oslo predict a catastrophic earthquake is imminent?

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