New Canaan News film critic Susan Granger reviews the new movie, "San Andreas:"

Like cautionary fables, disaster movies enthrall us with a horrible fascination -- as we watch with morbid curiosity from the safety of wherever we happen to be. It's pure escapism.

This terrifying action thriller follows LAFD search-and-rescue helicopter Ray Gaines (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) and his estranged wife, Emma (Carla Gugino) as they make their way from Los Angeles to San Francisco to find their daughter (Alexandra Daddario) in the aftermath of the largest magnitude earthquake in recorded history.

Also caught in the ensuing chaos are an eminent Caltech seismologist (Paul Giamatti), who believes he's found a way to track the quake, along with a TV journalist (Archie Panjabi), Emma's architect boyfriend (Ioan Gruffudd) and two British tourists (Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson).

Scripted by Carlton Cuse from a story by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore, it's directed by Brad Peyton and produced by Beau Flynn, collaborators on "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island." They incorporate more than 1,300 visual effects as Hoover Dam crumbles, freeways collapse, bridges break and a tsunami engulfs San Francisco's cityscape.

The premise is given validity by a March 2015 U.S. Geological Survey estimating that the odds of California experiencing a magnitude 8 or greater seismic event in the next 30 years has increased, as has the possibility of multi-fault ruptures.

Psychologically, we like to think we would make smart, even heroic, choices in a crisis situation -- and survive. Seeing believable protagonists do that on-screen is -- in a perverse way -- uplifting.

Our preoccupation with disaster scenarios goes back to Orson Welles' 1938 radio broadcast of his adaptation of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds." His 60-minute program ran without commercial breaks in a "news-bulletin" format that reportedly caused mass hysteria and panic.

In the 1970s, filmmaker Irwin Allen was known as the Master of Disaster for "The Poseidon Adventure" and "The Towering Inferno." Since then, Hollywood has made various depictions of global destruction a regular occurrence.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "San Andreas" is a scary 7, revealing spectacular devastation along the California coastline.

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