The Quake is able to offer us a low-budget Norwegian thriller that is certain to have audiences on the edge of their seats.
The film starts out with a news report on the findings of the Geiranger Comission. This is–of course–a reference to the fim’s prequel. Where Geiranger was the main setting in 2015, the 2018 sequel moves all the action to Oslo. In any event, we meet up with geologist Kristian Elkjord (Kristoffer Joner) again. While his family survived the tsunami, many others didn’t and so he’s feeling quite the guilt for those losses.
The guilt that bothers the geologist has led to him living apart from his family. Since the previous film, he’s separated from his wife, Idun (Ane Dahl Torp), son Sondre (Jonas Hoff Oftebro), and daughter Julia (Edith Haagenrud-Sande). Julia is clearly the most affected by Kristian separating from Idun. On one of her planned visits to see her dad, she discovers a room that she’s clearly not meant to see.
When a friend turns up dead in an accident that takes place in the Oslofjord tunnel, Kristian demands answers. Could it be signs of a looming disaster? Whatever his concerns may be, they are seemingly ignored by others. While unfortunate, Kristian teams up with his now-dead friend’s daughter, Marit (Kathrine Thorborg Johansen), in a race against time. Because this is a disaster movie, everyone happens to be in different places. One such place ends up being a skyscraper because nothing says a disaster pic better than this.
The skyscraper lends itself to some great visual effects opportunities. Even for a film with a budget less than $10 million, these effects are not campy in any means. The work in the production value pays off quite heavily to say the least. Much credit goes to VFX Supervisor Lars Erik Hansen for going above and beyond.
It’s important to know some background about the film. A major earthquake hit Oslo over a century ago in 1904. There’s no denying the possibility that such an event could happen again.
I went into The Quake without having watched Norway’s 2015 Oscar entry, The Wave. This is a huge mistake on my part but I full realize that this is a sequel. The original film is playing on Netflix so I’ll rectify the situation very soon. While seeing the first film would certainly help in understanding, they catch us up on those events during the news footage opening the film. A viewing of the predecessor is certainly necessary in understanding some of the other references within the film. If I’m being honest, I was initially surprised in learning that a disaster movie was selected for Oscar consideration.
Disaster movies are tricky because there are so many films that fall into the cliche traps. There’s the campy films that take themselves way too seriously while making sure we know it. Or there are those films whose production value really shows. While there are aspects of this film that do seem preposterous, The Quake doesn’t appear to be the typical disaster film that one might happen to see upon turning their TV to SyFy. That this film focuses on a family rather than all over the city helps in its favor. It’s a film whose script focuses on the characters and the drama that drives them.
Honestly, I appreciate the change of pace from similar American films. The American blockbusters play into all the tropes and despite impressive visuals, they’re all lacking in something. It’s through The Quake that we’re able to experience what’s happpening AS things are happening. The anxiety and stress that these characters feel aren’t too far from where we’re sitting on the edge of our seats. Believe me, I was scared for these characters every minute of the second and third acts. Who know that a small film from Norway would be able to overcome the problem that Americans can’t quite figure out?
In spite of some preposterous elements, The Quake is considerably impressive given the low budget at hand in this emotional, high-stakes thriller.
DIRECTOR: John Andreas Andersen
SCREENWRITERS: Harald Rosenløw Eeg & John Kåre Raake
CAST: Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Edith Haagenrud-Sande, Kathrine Thorborg Johansen, Jonas Hoff Oftebro, Stig Amdam