In 2015 the disaster epic The Wave (aka Bølgen) was released. It garnered high critical praise, won a slew of awards, and was the highest grossing film that year in its home country of Norway. It also happens to be a movie I have not seen. Now comes its sequel, The Quake (aka Skjelvet), taking place three years since the end of the first film.
Geologist Kristian Eikjord (Kristoffer Joner) is suffering from PTSD after almost dying during the tsunami. He also feels intense guilt over failing to save everyone before the wave hit Geiranger. Due to the strain, the tsunami put on their relationship, Kristian and Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) are now divorced. He rarely sees his two children, university-bound Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) and young Julia (Edith Haagenrud-Sande). However, when a colleague is killed in a tunnel collapse in Olso, Kristian is once again spurred to action.
He enlists the help of Marit (Kathrine Thorborg Johansen), the late co-worker’s daughter, to investigate the cause of the cave in. They figure out that a massive earthquake is soon to cause devastation to Olso and its suburbs. Now, the pair must convince the authorities to evacuate the citizens, as well as get to Kristian’s family before the city is reduced to rubble.
“…must convince the authorities to evacuate the citizens…before the city is reduced to rubble.”
Of course, this being a disaster film, the earthquake does come before the heroes make it out. Once it does, things are genuinely rousing and intense. John Andreas Andersen, taking directing duties over from Roar Uthaug, employs huge, sweeping shots to show off the beauty of Olso. Those same shots also show the tragic disaster that eventually plays out. The special effects are remarkable, putting more recent Hollywood disaster flicks to pure and utter shame. The special effects and stunning cinematography are the highlights of The Quake, and easily overcome some of the more cliched elements of the story.
The writers of The Wave, John Kåre Raake (who penned the amazing adventure flick Ragnarok) and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg, return for the sequel. As a standalone movie, it mostly holds its own. The prologue, taking place one year after the tsunami, does an excellent job of introducing Kristian and what his accomplishments to the audience. But then seeing his wall of newspaper clippings, missing person reports, and obituaries highlights the guilt he feels over not saving everyone without copious expository dialogue. Watching this broken man once again be thrust into a position of wanting but unable to save the entire city is an arc that keeps the viewer invested in the characters.
On the flipside, certain deaths were not as impactful as they should have been. When a co-worker of Kristian’s dies, it never fully registers. This might mean more for those familiar with the first film, but I am not sure on that. Either way, in this film, this person is in it so little, that swapping him out for a random highway employee would get the same emotional response and get the characters to the same place in the story.
“…thanks to strong characterizations and good acting the plot is still engaging.”
The screenplay also hits the expected cliches- the federal regulatory agencies don’t believe the main character, despite this person’s proven track record. Yeah, I couldn’t wrap my mind around that one either. Moreover, Kristian is such a workaholic he misses an important family date (Julia’s ballet recital). While these were a tad annoying, the primary characters are so well developed that it is only a minor stumbling block.
Kristoffer Joner is magnificent as Kristian. He plays the character as so world-weary and distraught his mental break makes total sense. More importantly, when he is interacting with his family, you can see sparks of life and the man he once was come back. Playing Idun, Ane Dahl Torp is also quite good. She’s never bitter or angry at Kristian; instead, she’s heartbroken and disappointed. In a sequence where they are trying to restore power to the house, it is clear they still love each other, and if Torp played the character as cynical that would kill the emotional arc for both of them. As the kids, Oftebro and Haagenrud-Sande are good and share believable chemistry with their onscreen parents.
The Quake hits a handful of the cliches one expects from a disaster film, as well as having one character’s death not mean as much as it should. However, thanks to strong characterizations and good acting the plot is still engaging. However, the reason to watch the film is the excellent cinematography and awe-inspiring effects.
The Quake (2018) Directed by John Andreas Andersen. Written by John Kåre Raake, Harald Rosenløw-Eeg. Starring Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Jonas Hoff Oftebro, Edith Haagenrud-Sande, Kathrine Thorborg Johansen.
8 out of 10 Gummi Bears