Editor’s Notes: San Andreas is currently out in wide theatrical release.
The Rock. Earthquakes. Paul Giamatti. Special effects. These are the four pillars of San Andreas, an action film that showcases the complete and utter devastation of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, as the San Andreas fault line splits apart in a series of increasingly high-intensity earthquakes. San Francisco’s architectural pillars are unable to support the city, which crumbles fantastically into a pile of fire, dust and dirt, topped off by a tsunami. At the centre of all the chaos is the consistent, steady rock of support named Ray Gaines (Dwayne Johnson), a L.A. Fire Department helicopter-rescue pilot who uses helicopters, planes, trucks and boats to save his daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario).
San Francisco’s architectural pillars are unable to support the city, which crumbles fantastically into a pile of fire, dust and dirt, topped off by a tsunami.
San Andreas provides two hours of escapism and excellent special effects, and does not step outside of the tried-and-tested action flick formula that has worked so many times before, but that’s alright. This is not a film designed to ask questions about humanity, religion or the universe, and neither is it a place for lovingly crafted dialogue, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is: a fun action film that centres on a grieving family’s ultimate reconciliation through grand natural disaster. Anyone seeing San Andreas should simply pop on their 3D glasses, toss popcorn into their mouths, and sit back and enjoy this two-hour journey, because that’s what this film is meant to do: mindlessly entertain, and it succeeds at that.
Dr. Lawrence Hayes (Paul Giamatti) is the professor whose Caltech team has perfected a system that predicts earthquakes, but not before his colleague dies in a Las Vegas earthquake and, determined to honour his memory and have a voice after being ignored for so long, he finally gets some air time on the news, warning the people of San Francisco of the terrible quake yet to come, signing off with a cheesy, teary-eyed, “God be with you.”
Ray is strong physically, and in his career, he is calm and steady—but inside, he has been falling apart inside ever since the drowning death of his other daughter, Mallory. He blames himself for her death, and his silence on the topic has pushed his wife Emma (Carla Gugino) into the arms of her new millionaire boyfriend. When Ray is called to assist with search and rescue in Las Vegas, Daniel volunteers to fly Blake to school in his private plane. They stop in San Francisco on the way so Daniel can do some business, and it is here that Blake meets sweet-faced British brothers Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and Ollie (Art Parkinson). They are painfully soft, squishy characters, and Ollie’s many close-ups and one-liners are cringe-worthy, but Ben fulfills his role as Blake’s love interest, and the brothers’ general lack of basic survival skills allow Blake to prove herself as smart and capable: when Daniel abandons Blake to save himself, she pieces together what she’s learned from Ray over the years and leads the brothers to the highest plane they can reach in San Francisco.
It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is: a fun action film that centres on a grieving family’s ultimate reconciliation through grand natural disaster.
Meanwhile, Emma has nearly died in a collapsing building in L.A., only to be rescued at the last minute by Ray in his helicopter. They unite as parents still grieving Mallory’s death, and they stop at nothing to get to San Francisco and save Blake. We do not have to wait long for one of the film’s glorious, typical action film exchanges: “What are we going to do?” “We’re going to save our daughter.” It is cheesy, but it is expected, and in the context of a formulaic action film, it is welcome. The biggest emotional moment comes when Ray thinks he is going to watch his only other daughter drown, when he thinks he is going to fail again, when he is distraught that he can seemingly save everyone but the people he loves most. It is emotionally gripping, the anguish on Ray’s and Emma’s faces palpable.
San Andreas is a very predictable film that relies on its great CGI to divert attention from the simplistic script. This film is for you if you’re just looking for a two-hour break from reality where you can turn off your brain and count on a happy ending.
San Andreas provides two hours of escapism and excellent special effects, and does not step outside of the tried-and-tested action flick formula that has worked so many times before.