Friday, 18 December 2009



Sometimes I love a plain, bold, unadorned title that states simply and exactly, in as few words as possible, exactly what the movie is. Psycho, Earthquake, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Grannies In Bondage. You know precisely what you're going to get. Titanic - it's about the Titanic. Aliens - it's about aliens. Okay, there's usually a lot more to it than that: some emotional drama, some character comedy, but on the most basic level That's What The Movie Is and anything else is just additional frippery, to make you care when the big event finally occurs. The Towering Inferno wouldn't be any good at all if it was exclusively composed of scenes of famous people burning to death: the first act is setting up the good and bad people so there's at least some attempt at depth, so there's someone you can cheer for and someone you can boo and hiss.

The trouble with the South Korean disaster flick Tidal Wave is that the first act is nearly two thirds of the running time, and the romantic entanglements drag hideously, none of which you really care about. After an opening set against the tsunami of Christmas 2004 (the point of which is that This Could Happen Again) it morphs into a fairly dull episode of Sunset Beach: mainly concerned with a hesitant will-they-won't-they dramatic romance (he's got a guilty secret) and a nerdy-guy-meets-kooky-babe comedic romance. Which is okay, but not for a full hour. Meanwhile they're planning to redevelop all the beachfront properties, the town is full of bigwigs for a cultural expo, and no-one wants to listen to the bespectacled seismologist predicting a mega-tsunami any moment. (He, of course, has estranged ex-wife problems to deal with as well.) And eventually, the massive great wave of CGI seawater arrives.

Cue: destruction, chaos, panic and screaming as buildings collapse in the best disaster movie tradition. This is obviously the best bit of the film: a major special effects set piece which frankly we've been waiting too long for, which is a shame as some of it's pretty good. There's an enjoyable extended action/comedy/effects sequence involving a cab driver trapped on a bridge that's been hit by the tsunami AND the cargo ship lodged against one of the supports. Against that there's rather a lot of syrupy self-sacrifice and tearful farewells, backed by an overly melodramatic soundtrack with lots of unresolved Are You Crying Yet? chords from the string section.

This isn't to say it's a terrible film; but the best stuff in Tidal Wave is the tidal wave itself; the rest of the movie is perfectly passable (and would be fine as a romantic comedy by itself) but takes too long and holds up the actual disaster, which is what we really wanted to see.


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