Back in 2015, I discovered the thrilling treat of a disaster film that is Roar Uthaug's The Wave, the first disaster film to be made in Norway and based on the true tsunami that hit the town of Tafjord in 1934. The film earned major praise from myself and critics alike for its focus on character building and small scope rather than going for the typical CGI-laden blockbuster approach. The Wave went on to become the highest grossing film in Norway for the year of its release, so of course, a sequel was ordered up. Three years later, The Quake (aka Skjelvet) is released and surprisingly enough, the film does an excellent job with living up to the standard set by its predecessor, both as a sequel and a standalone film.
Three years after a quake triggered a landslide near Geiranger, a small Norwegian town, resulted in an 80-meter high tsunami that devastated the local community, geologist Kristian Eikjord (Kristoffer Joner) is still trying to come to grips with his new life following the disaster his family survived years prior. Stricken with guilt from those who perished, regardless of his being celebrated as a hero for saving many innocent lives, Kristian's personal life begins to erode. His wife Idun (Ane Dahl Torp) has left him and moved to Oslo, and there's an ever-widening distance with his children, Sondre (Hoff Oftebro) and Julia (Haagenrud-Sande). Not helping matters, Kristian sees disaster everywhere he looks as a result of the trauma he's gone through. Of course, his quiet and depressive life is interrupted when an old colleague suddenly dies while investigating a series of tremors in the tunnels under Oslo. Convinced that another disaster even more devastating than the one previously suffered is looming over the city, Kristian must put aside his pain and fears in order to save the lives of his family and, quiet possibly, the entire city before it's too late.
Admittedly, I'm not the biggest fan of disaster flicks, as I can probably count the small amount I do enjoy on one hand. And one would think, a sequel to a disaster film would certainly spell out nothing but, well, disaster. Thankfully, this isn't the case with The Quake. Uthaug, following The Wave's success, took to Hollywood in order to direct the most recent Tomb Raider, leaving the newcomer John Andreas Andersen to direct the sequel. Writers John Kåre Raake (Ragnarok) and Harald Rosenløw-Eeg, return for the sequel in which Andersen takes a similar pacing approach from The Wave, building narrative strength and character development throughout the first two acts. The uncomfortable sensation that something big is about to happen also builds a very similar level of terror and contributes to the viewer's ever-growing heart rate.
Much like The Wave however, the most interesting parts of the film don't come from its titular disaster, instead it's cast takes the spotlight. Joner once again plays Kristian with skilled intensity and dedication, as he gradually puts together clues to warn of the impending disaster, even though authorities continue to deny the impending danger. More importantly when Kristian interacts with is family, you can really see and feel the man he once was breaking through the cracks of a shattered psyche. Truly an award deserving performance. Likewise, Dahl Torp as Idun perfectly portrays a wife who's heartbroken and disappointed by the state of her husband, rather than taking an angry or cynical approach, making the chemistry between the two a sight to behold. Haagenrud-Sande as Julie is the Eikjord child who gets the majority of the attention this time around and does a fantastic job playing the child trapped between two separated parents.
Unfortunately, the film's weakest aspect is its final act and when disaster finally strikes. The Quake follows the plot of the first film to a T. Kristian gets solid proof that a devastating event is about to occur, no one listens, and he ends up having to save his family and others alone. The film also fails to build the insane amount of tension found in the first film. Making the climax feel slightly underwhelming. Yes, the CGI quake is vastly more impressive in terms of destruction but ultimately lacks the same emotional punch as its predecessor because The Quake fails to introduce the viewer to nearly as many inhabitants as The Wave did. So when the earthquake hits Oslo, there's a sense of hollowness, absent of personal attachment those who lose their lives, except for one unforseen instance that really hits home. That being said, cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund and effects department make efficient use of CGI, as we watch Oslo being torn apart. The devastation looks phenomenal as buildings collapse, the ground ripples and buckles, and shattered glass rains down upon the streets, all on a significantly smaller budget than that of the average Hollywood disaster flick.
Featuring many cliches one expects from a disaster film, The Quake doesn't reinvent the wheel by any means, but it makes a very solid effort to match the marvel that was The Wave, and comes very close to doing so at that! This is still an astounding rollercoaster ride of a film with strong characterizations, a fairly engaging plot, and awe-inspiring cinematography and effects. It's a film that's well worth seeking out and is undoubtedly the best disaster film sequel I've ever seen!