Written by John Kåre Raake, Harald Rosenløw-Eeg
Directed by John Andreas Andersen
It’s been three years since a quake triggered a landslide near Geiranger, a small Norwegian town, resulting in an 80-meter (262ft.) high tsunami that devastated the local community. With nearly 250 lives lost, Norway is still asking how such an event could’ve happened and what can be done to prevent such a tragedy from recurring. But the loss of life isn’t the only thing that was affected by the tsunami. Kristian Eikjord (Joner) has been living with the guilt and pain of those who perished, regardless of his being celebrated as a hero for saving so many lives. This guilt is all-encompassing, resulting in the separation from his wife, Idun (Dahl Torp), and an ever-widening distance with his children, Sondre (Hoff Oftebro) and Julia (Haagenrud-Sande). But when an even more terrifying threat looms over Oslo and threatens the lives of his family, Kristian must put aside his pain to save an entire city from what may very well be the country’s most catastrophic phenomenon.
Taking Roar Uthaug’s pacing from The Wave, director John Andreas Andersen allows the step-by-step revelations to build the tension throughout the first act until the release of the calamity in the second. With each signifier, Kristian’s realization that Oslo is at perilous risk only adds to the viewer’s rising heart rate. Couple that with the same attention to familial attachment as The Wave and this film builds a very similar level of terror and apprehension.
As with the first film, Joner plays Kristian with the kind of intensity and dedication that deserves award recognition. Likewise, Dahl Torp plays Idun with strength, determination, class, and focus, making her character a sight to behold. While Hoff Oftebro is just as good in the role of Sondre as he was in The Wave, the Eikjord child that gets the majority of attention this time around is Julia (once again played by Haagenrud-Sande), who steals the show. She embodies the pain of a child caught between two separated parents, clearly affected by the awkwardness and pity of being around her father and his unrelenting grief yet able to still exude warmth and love.
The movie recognizes that being a hero doesn’t mean being free from the pain of consequences. Kristian may have saved countless people but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel the weight of the souls of nearly 250 people he couldn’t save. As he sobs in front of Idun, the tears run through grief-etched fissures running across his face. It’s a wonderful moment where we see that “being a man” doesn’t mean we’re not allowed to be vulnerable. If anything, Kristian’s open pain is precisely the kind of hero that cinema needs more of.
But where the film falters is that it simply doesn’t have the astronomical levels of tension its predecessor offered. Yes, the scale of destruction is vastly more impressive but the destruction of Oslo lacks the same punch because The Quake didn’t spend its first act introducing us to nearly as many inhabitants as The Wave did. The undoubtedly impressive earthquake sequence rings hollow because Oslo feels empty, bereft of any personal attachment. Furthermore, the tsunami began with the landslide that activated the 10-minute countdown before the water reached Geiranger, which felt like both an eternity and an instant. The buildup to the earthquake does its absolute best to instill a foreboding sense of impending doom but that is dashed when the sequence itself lasts a minute or two. The aftershocks and collapsing buildings certainly add to the “wow” factor but there is still a feeling of disappointment that it wasn’t dragged out a little longer for some more oomph.
All that being said, the devastation really is a sight to behold. Buildings collapse as the ground heaves, buckles, and swells. Shattered glass rains down upon the streets while cloying clouds of dust obscure everything within sight. All of this allows for a fantastic set piece where a rooftop hotel restaurant is steeply tilted as the top of the building itself precariously holds on by a few beams and cables.
There was no way that The Quake could match the marvel that was The Wave but dammit did they try and almost succeed! This is still a marvelous rollercoaster of a ride and it’s well worth seeking out.
While not as mind-blowing or exhilarating as The Wave, The Quake is, without a doubt, a very solid, enjoyable, and thrilling experience. Those who loved the first film will find this to be a wildly entertaining sequel with just as much heart.