Extremely spoilery. This is a disaster film post though, so maybe even if you don’t want spoilers you should read on anyway, assuming everything will be fine, while worrying about tourists staying away.
Much of the action in Nordic disaster sequel The Quake takes place in an elegant restaurant on the 34th floor of a luxury hotel, and it all becomes very Titanic-like as poor victims slide down the 45 degree-angled floor and out of the massive, now-glassless windows, to plunge to their doom.
Tower Block Titanic may be missing the class system (this is Norway after all) and Kate Winslet’s boobs from the original. But up on the 34th floor, beautiful glassware smashed, elegant light fittings dangling, the expensive bar still gamely holding on for people wanting a last bourbon before they die, it wouldn’t have surprised me to see some elderly Edwardian steel magnate in morning dress slither past and off the edge.
The building itself creaks as it tips, huge chunks of black mirrored glass falling out, leaving it looking like a giant letter C just about looming over a collapsing city.
Yes, this week the Good Bad Film Club stopped swapping pandemic memes on WhatsApp, switched on Zoom Chat and checked back in with Kristian Eikjord in the latest adventures of the World’s Unluckiest Scientist™. A mere four years after saving his community (well some of them anyway) from a tsunami racing across the local fjord, the now-separated geologist finds himself and his family caught up in another major disaster.
These Nordic disaster movies are nothing if not realistic, if that doesn’t sound like an oxymoron. Declared a hero after the night of the tsunami in The Wave, Kristian (Kristoffer Joner) is now struggling with what happened. His wife Idun (Ana Dahl Torp) and children now live in Oslo, while he has plastered the wall of his Geiranger flat with photos of people who died in the tragedy, like a detective with the victims of a serial killer. And in a way Kristian is doing the same thing – what was missed? What else could be coming?
If The Wave was brought to you by Primal Scream’s Get Your Rocks Off, as two geologists were pelted with stones while stuck in a crevice, this sequel had me humming Let’s Get Ready To Rumble by PJ and Duncan. Don’t let that put you off though. Like The Wave this is top-notch disaster movie-making, once again maxing out the least silly tropes while this time also being fully prepared to kill off a major character.
Like The Wave it’s sparse and focussed. With a trauma of this magnitude you don’t really need overblown silliness. The dialogue is striking but entirely avoids bombast: “those blasts are simply camouflage,” says Kristian to senior scientist Johannes Løberg, our new “Jaws Mayor”, of the yellow dots signifying tremors apparently made by contractors drilling. The earthquake is hiding behind them.
Truly, is nowhere safe in Norway? First it was the pretty fjord-side tourist haven of Geiranger, now it’s their biggest city. And yet Scandinavian countries still top every poll about the best and safest place to live. Is falling down a giant crack the price to be paid for an excellent welfare state, cool crime dramas and Hygge cosiness?
Actually the “giant crack” question is one I always want earthquake movies to explain to me but never do:
Sadly The Quake doesn’t answer it either, though it does provide a useful reminder never to get in a lift during an emergency. And if someone says “Norway will be just fine!” and you’re in Norway, run like the wind back to Britain, the land of a collapsing welfare state, endless Agatha Christie remakes and C&A nylon jumpers. You’ll be miserable but alive. Also, watch what the rats are doing! If they’re deserting a sinking ship, or dying for some unknown reason, you are indeed on a metaphorical Titanic. (We don’t have rats here any more, they left long ago.)
Somehow, a disaster set in a country famous for good sense and understatement makes this cataclysm that much more terrifying. I haven’t been this frightened since waiting to find out if the bunkers in Greenland were adequately stocked with Chanel no5 and red lipstick. From outside we see towerblocks literally tipping over, their shiny glass panels peeling off like a shower of futuristic diamonds. Though that didn’t stop us wondering what could have been.
Much of the action takes place inside, with Kristian and soon-to-be ex-wife Idun trying to climb up the lift shaft while the lift itself creaks ominously above them.
Also above them, on the 34th floor after going looking for her mother, their tween daughter Julia (an excellent Edith Haagenrud-Sande) struggles to survive with Marit Lindblom, the twentysomething daughter of a dead scientist who had been trying to alert a complacent scientific community to the impending quake.
But with stoic disastering there must be sacrifice, and in The Quake it’s poor Idun, giving her life so that the elevator dangling perilously above them might career freely down to the bottom of the lift shaft.
Still at least it reminds Kristian that he still loves her, and now he doesn’t have to pay for a divorce.
Tragic though this is – Idun had a nice line in pomposity-pricking, usually aimed at Kristian – she’s been set up though two movies to be a bit of a doubter. She doesn’t seem to rate her husband much, even as he’s trying to tell her what’s about to happen.
The most chilling part of the film is later, when Kristian makes it up to the 34th floor to Julia and Marit (Kathrine Thorborg Johansen), only for he and his daughter to slip down the floor, with Julia going over the edge. A remaining glass panel breaks her fall, though as she lies there it begins to crack underneath her like ice on a pond.
Unlike most disaster movies, I genuinely feared that they would kill off an actual child. By this stage they have already squashed her mother with a lift, after all. Instead Kristian manages to creep along a tiny ledge, empty window frames beneath him, until he gets to his daughter, and Marit can then rescue them with a string of 1930s-esque lampshades.
They survive, and Kristian, Julia and teenage son Sondre (who got through the quake in a college lecture hall with a light dusting of ceiling plaster) return to Geiranger, though considering Kristian gets into more scrapes than Mike Banning I expect when the locals saw him coming they all crowded onto the next ferry out.
Every disaster movie should teach us some new lingo, to use alongside “argh!” and “oh shit!” when we meet our very own armageddon. Comet catastrophe Deep Impact gave us ELE, or extinction level event; Dante’s Peak pyroclastic clouds. Geostorm gave us, well, geostorms. In The Quake it’s limnic eruptions, when toxic gases come up through the rocks.
They’ve clearly learnt from the first film, which though excellent staked its scientific claims to the rather dull-sounding “vanishing groundwater”. Limnic eruption sounds considerably more impressive, and anyway toxic gases are much more believable if you’ve spent yet another lockdown day looking after small children, who produce the stuff in industrial quantities.
The Good-Bad Film Club Rating
An impressive 9.5 on the Richter scale, The Quake is Good-Good.
Post-watch googling: the hotel where the action takes place is the Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel. It’s the second-tallest building in Norway! (At the start of the film, anyway)
The Quake is available from various outlets including:
Watch the trailer for The Quake now: