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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

San Andreas | Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Loan Gruffordd, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giamatti, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson | Review

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4sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD Judy Thorburn

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4lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is GOOD


San Andreas

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes are some of mankind's worst fears since we haven't yet found a way to stop them from happening.  At best, sometimes there are forewarnings in the hope of getting people to safety, while mother nature unleashes her wrath causing vast destruction and the loss of lives.

Although the events in this film are fictitious, we all know that the possibility of the strongest, most devastating earthquake to ever hit the United States is, unfortunately, all too real.
That said, San Andreas is a disaster movie, and so audiences should know exactly what they are in for. As such, it meets expectations. Having the on screen presence of charismatic, hunky Dwayne Johnson, a force of nature himself, as the heroic lead character, definitely is a plus.  It is a role that is in his comfort zone and fits him to a T.

Johnson plays Chief Ray Gaines, a former Afghanistan war veteran turned L.A. Fire and Rescue helicopter pilot with over 600 rescues under his belt. Soon to be divorced from wife Emma (Carla Gugino) who is about to move in with her boyfriend, uber rich real estate developer Daniel (Ioan Gruffordd), Ray and Emma have a college age daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario), the only surviving child from their broken marriage, in which he blames himself for a past tragedy.

Dispatched to Southern Nevada when a 7.1 quake, the largest in that area is reported, destroying Boulder Dam, Ray finds his priority switched when another, more massive quake shakes up California along the San Andreas Fault. Rather than heading to Nevada, he sets out on a race against time to rescue, Emma, who finds herself stuck on the the rooftop of a crumbling L.A. skyscraper before Ray shows up in his chopper to sweep her away.  The  two then head off to find Blake who had accompanied Daniel to San Francisco, but was abandoned by him after the quake hit, with self preservation being the only thing on his mind.

Thankfully, after overhearing Daniel tell a security guard where the endangered Blake is before he took off, a cute, visiting Brit, Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and his wisecracking, kid brother Ollie (Art Parkinson) Blake had met earlier in the building, come to her rescue, pulling her out from a limo in a parking garage. As the earth beneath their feet is being ripped apart, the trio then team up in an effort to get to safety, with the resourceful Blake leading the way, able to contact her parents by phone to let them know she is alive.  Knowing that she is only temporarily safe and still in peril, Ray and Emma head to San Francisco to rescue her themselves.

The story goes back and forth from Blake's predicament to her parents efforts to save their daughter as the initial quake is followed by a more deadlier 9.5 quake that generates an oncoming tsunami of epic proportions.

San Andreas follows the usual formula and familiar plotting we've seen in this genre such as an estranged family, a villainous character, a potential love connection, and the brainy person whose knowledge of the impending catastrophic event is met with deaf ears.  In this case, Paul Giamatti embodies the role of Dr. Lawrence Hayes, a Cal Tech seismologist who lectures to his students about earthquakes and had predicted that the West Coast would be hit. Only after the fact, is he taken seriously and able to use his knowledge to save lives.

Making up for the predictable plotting is the great chemistry between Gugino and Johnson (it is their third time working together in films) and not having the two lead actresses play the customary damsels in distress.  Here, both are resourceful, smart women who take it upon themselves to take control and do what is needed when the situation calls for it.

Canadian born director, Brad Peyton (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) working from a screenplay by Carlton Cuse (TV's Lost and Bates Motel), delivers the goods in creating a ravaged landscape of monumental destruction and mounting deaths as the disaster rips apart the earth and takes its toll.  His team of visual effects artists do a fantastic job with their believable, totally convincing depiction of buildings tumbling down, landmarks destroyed (The Hollywood mountaintop sign, Coit Tower, A T & T Ball Park, for example), freeways and bridges collapsing (such as the Golden Gate), fires and floods, as it happens on the ground as well as from a bird's eye view.

For movie fans looking for an entertaining, action packed, thrilling adventure, showcasing Dwayne Johnson and impressive CGI effects (especially in 3D), San Andreas, fits the bill.  At this year's CinemaCon convention, the pro wrestler, turned movie star action hero, told cinema owners that he wanted “to make a film that was earth shattering.”  I have to say, he sure did.


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