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Film Review: San Andreas

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Title: San Andreas
Director: Brad Peyton
Screenwriter: Carlton Cuse, Andre Fabrizio, Jeremy Passmore
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Paul Giamatti, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Art Parkinson, Ioan Gruffudd, Hugo Johnstone-Burt
Release Date: Out Now
Review By: Dave Griffiths

Sometimes a movie’s trailer works against it. A trailer is supposed to make people want to flock to see a film, but so many people are watching the trailer for San Andreas and deciding to stay away that it is obvious that something went badly wrong. What makes it even worse is the fact that San Andreas isn’t exactly a bad film. Sure it’s not going to win any Oscars or anything like that but if you are willing to look past some at times wooden acting and cheesy dialogue there is a fairly decent action film waiting to burst out.

San Andreas centres around rescue helicopter pilot, Ray (Dwayne Johnson – Hercules) who has over 600 rescues to his name and a decorated career in the military. Things aren’t so great on the home-front though as he is reluctantly divorcing his wife, Emma (Carla Gugino – Night At The Museum) and that is already straining his relationship with his daughter, Blake (Alexandra Daddario – Percy Jackson franchise). It seems Ray can only watch as Emma’s new boyfriend; Daniel (Ioan Gruffudd – Fantastic Four) is there for her more and more.

Ray’s family is put in even more danger when the ‘big one’ that seismologist Lawrence (Paul Giamatti – Saving Private Ryan) predicts hits California. As Ray races to rescue Emma he doesn’t realise that Emma’s life is in danger after she tries to flee the devastation with new found friends, Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt – TV’S Home & Away) and Ollie (Art Parkinson – Dracula Untold) after being abandoned by Daniel.

San Andreas is the kind of film that really rips up at your insides. Every single fibre of your body will scream at you that you aren’t supposed to like this film, but something there ends up seeping through and you’ll leave the cinema liking it. For some reason you’ll look past the fact that some of the actors here are so cardboard that they appear like the 3D cutout in the cinema foyer and you’ll actually end up liking them. You know bells should be ringing when you say that the best acting performance in San Andreas comes from Dwayne Johnson, but then enough of the characters in this film are so likable that you want them to survive to the end.

It’s there that director Brad Peyton (yes the man responsible for Cats & Dogs 2 and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island) really brings San Andreas to life in a way that few cinema goers would expect. Yes there are some horrible CGI moments in this film, that clearly use a green screen, but this film captivates its audience once you realise that Peyton and his screenwriters are not afraid to bump off a few characters who have previously had screen time. That’s when the suspense really kicks in for the audience because you simply don’t know what is going to happen next. And then, yes, Peyton even manages to bring in one of the most hated characters in a disaster movie since Billy Zane in Titanic in the form of Ioan Gruffudd’s billionaire playboy Daniel Riddick. No matter how kind-hearted you are you are seriously rooting for this guy to die a painful death. Speaking of which, another huge plus goes to Peyton because of the fact that in San Andreas he comes up with some really creative deaths for people, yes this isn’t one of those modern day disaster films where it seems every second character has a miraculous escape.

The visuals in San Andreas will both impress and frustrate most audience members. While cinematographer Steve Yedlin brings some interesting and new shots to a disaster film he is also sadly let down at times by the CGI which at times appears way too fake, surprising for a film with such a large budget. The fact that a CGI American flag is thrown in at the end is also a massive amount of overkill and makes you wonder what exactly the filmmakers were thinking when they decided to include it.

The cast are also sadly let down at times by the cheesy lines that they are asked to deliver. Actors like Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson get small chance to shine and should be thankful that their roles aren’t as clichéd as the ones played by Ioan Gruffudd and Carla Gugino.

On the plus side though, Alexandra Daddario does nothing to hurt her acting stocks and even at times shows that she could well be cast as a scream queen in year to come. Paul Giamatti also hands out an acting lesson to anybody who shares a scene with him. The Oscar nominated actor shines in every scene he features in at times making the cast around him almost seem like props. Meanwhile Dwayne Johnson continues to impress and shows that he is no longer an actor who is only cast because of his stature. At the end of the day he is the actor who brings the human and dramatic side to this film… and that is a huge step up.

As far as disaster films go San Andreas isn’t exactly a let down. While it doesn’t hold a candle to classics of the genre like Towering Inferno and Titanic it isn’t exactly grown worthy like so many modern disaster flicks have been. San Andreas is well worth a look if you want some good old fashioned disaster fun and don’t want to think too much while in the cinema.

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