'The Quake': Film Review

Jolting.
12/14/2018

The heroic geologist at the center of 2015's 'The Wave' returns to predict another calamity in John Andres Andersen's disaster movie sequel.

The hero of John Andreas Andersen's new movie just can't catch a break. In the director's 2015 Norwegian film The Wave, the intrepid geologist Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) predicted an earthquake that led to a massive tsunami in the Norwegian town of Geiranger. In the follow-up The Quake, he frantically attempts to alert the authorities that a massive seismic event is about to strike the capital city of Oslo, only to find his warnings go unheeded.

More cerebral and less CGI-effects laden than most similar efforts, this sequel demonstrates that Hollywood has nothing on the Scandinavians when it comes to making exciting disaster pics. It probably won't reach many filmgoers on these shores because they don't associate disaster movies with subtitles and because Dwayne Johnson isn't swooping in to save the day, but for the more open-minded, The Quake offers visceral thrills.

As the story begins, it's clear that Kristian remains traumatized by the horrific events of the first film. His marriage to Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) is on the rocks, and he's now living on his own, rarely seeing his college-age son Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) and tween daughter Julia (Edith Haagenrud-Sande). When the latter does come for a weekend visit, she discovers a room that lays bare her father's obsession with natural disasters.

Kristian has good reason to be obsessed. He's apparently the only one able to discern such future calamities, save for the scurrying rats who always seem to know something's up. Kristian becomes particularly alarmed by the death of a former colleague killed while investigating a highway tunnel. He contacts the dead man's daughter (Kathrine Thorborg Johansen) who, like everyone else, initially scoffs at his concerns.

But as more ominous events keep occurring, the more Kristian is convinced he's right. Unable to persuade those who consider him paranoid, he takes matters into his own hands. Desperately attempting to save his family members, he resorts to such measures as calling in bomb threats and setting off fire alarms to empty the building they're in.

It all naturally leads to the film's final section, in which the quake hits while Kristian and his clan are trapped in a glass-walled high-rise building. The resulting thrills and chills are expertly rendered in a series of excitingly staged sequences enhanced by vivid special effects that are all the more impressive considering the pic's relatively low budget.

The lengthy build-up, which could easily bear the title The Enemy of the People, goes on for perhaps too long. There's only so much tension the director can wrestle from the talky screenplay by John Kare Raake and Harald Rosevlov Eeg (who also wrote The Wave) before impatience sets in and you long for the damn quake to strike already. On the other hand, it's refreshing that the film doesn't merely consist of one elaborate set piece after another, a common formula that often proves more numbing than exciting.

Joner powerfully conveys Kristian's haunted, tortured quality, making credible people's writing off his dire warning as mere symptoms of PTSD. The supporting performances are strong all around, while John Christian Rosenlunds' widescreen cinematography and Christian Siebenherz's screw-tightening editing make strong contributions. The Quake make not make any fresh waves, but it's a solid entry in a tired genre.

Production company: Fantefilm
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
Cast: Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Jonas Hoff Oftebro, Edith Haagenrud-Sands, Kathrine Thorburg Johansen
Director: John Andres Andersen
Screenwriters: John Kare Raake, Harold Rosenlow-Eeg
Producers: Are Heidenstrum, Martin Sundland
Director of photography: John Christian Rosenlund
Production designer: Jorgen Stangeby Larsen
Editor: Christian Siebenherz
Composers: Johannes Ringen, Johan Soderqvist

Rated PG-13, 106 minutes