San Andreas
dir Brad Peyton
scr Carlton Cuse
prd Beau Flynn
with Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti, Alexandra Daddario, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, Ioan Gruffudd, Kylie Minogue, Alec Utgoff, Will Yun Lee, Archie Panjabi, Colton Haynes
release US/UK 29.May.15
15/US Warner 1h54
San Andreas
Out of the frying pan: Gugino and Johnson

daddario giamatti gruffudd
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
San Andreas With just the vaguest hint of science and bucketloads of fiction, this preposterous action movie is so over-the-top that it's pointless to complain that virtually every scene in the film defies all known laws of physics and geology. But never mind, it's big and loud and packed with insane set-pieces that let the digital animators go wild while allowing the actors to practice looking panicky.

Los Angeles Fire & Rescue chopper pilot Ray (Johnson) is annoyed when an emergency calls him away from helping his daughter Blake (Daddario), who instead gets a lift to San Francisco with the new boyfriend (Gruffudd) of his soon-to-be-exwife Emma (Gugino). But this emergency is an earthquake predicted by Cal Tech expert Lawrence (Giamatti), and it signals a massive temblor that will move up the coast. After L.A. is devastated, Ray rescues Emma and they heads north to find Blake, who's fighting for survival with new friend Ben (Johnstone-Burt) and his little brother Ollie (Parkinson).

This is the kind of film that throws everything it can think of at its protagonist, from emotional trauma to enormous calamity, and of course Johnson powers through all of it without missing a beat. Most impressive is that he survives the one rather demanding dramatic conversation. Otherwise, the film has virtually no suspense at all, playing out like disaster porn as hundreds of thousands of anonymous people are killed while the characters carry on as if none of that matters.

Aside from that bit of emoting, Johnson holds the attention as usual with his charmingly beefy presence, generating solid chemistry with the sparky Gugino. Giamatti has the most histrionic character, and adds a proper sense of urgency to the whole movie, while Gruffudd gets the thankless role as the nice-guy billionaire who's probably really a jerk. And then there's the plucky Daddario, who holds her own on the action front while playing out an amusing romance with the only slightly needy Johnstone-Burt.

As a guilty pleasure, there's plenty of fake excitement to keep us from ever getting bored, and the digital effects are so relentless that the film could probably qualify for the Animated Feature Oscar. But all of this spectacle is oddly unsatisfying in a film that's as hyperactive and lightweight as this one is. There's lots of mayhem and an escalating sense of destruction, but everything feels naggingly implausible, concocted because it looks cool, not because it means anything.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 26.May.15

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