Ha Ji-Won Week – Haeundae (Tidal Wave)

This was the movie that gave me the idea for Ha Ji-won week.  It surprisingly has been given a rushed (although well publicised) DVD release as “Tidal Wave”, so could be many peoples experience of Korean, if not Asian cinema.  Unfortunately, the television advertising does kind of miss out this is a foreign,  subtitled movie – and i have seen a few comments on places like Amazon.co.uk complaining about this.

Haeundae” is Korea’s most expensive film to date – around $11Haeundae_film_poster million US.  Which of course is peanuts for a Hollywood film – but quite amazing for a Korean movie.  It is also the first Disaster movie out of Korea that I am aware of.  It really harks back to the disaster movies of the 1970’s (Towering Inferno, Earthquake), telling multiple stories of a large cast – which are then combined by the impact of a mega-tsunami on the seaside resort of Haeundae.

As an aside, I was surprised to see the subject of Tsunami used as the basis for a popcorn flick  – I was able to visit an island off the coast of Thailand after the 2004 Tsunami, and the devastation to life was quite heart-breaking.  But to be fair, I don’t think the film treats the subject with any disrespect.

I enjoyed the movie to be honest.  It is not high-art, but then I would not expect that from the genre – and the science is a bit umm “iffy”

Some of the stories worked, some didn’t.  There was possibly one sub-plot too many, but I find that happens quite often in Korean films.  I don’t think too many viewers will be surprised how each of the subplots turn out – some live, some die.  It does repeat that awful trick of all but killing one character, saving them, and then killing them off only 10 minutes later (see: Windstruck).  Only one story excels – that of Dong-choon (Kim In-kwon)– a bit of a waster, that even though he ends up a hero (although actually he might have been responsible for a lot of deaths), realises that his actions have led to the death of his mother.

The performances as a whole are fine – our friend Ha Ji-won puts in a pretty good display, but she really could do with a lot more screen time.

I felt the disaster was actually left a little too late in the movie, which did not give us time to assess the after-effects.  In fact I wonder if an extra 20 minutes would not have gone amiss here.

The film is directed pretty well by Yun Je-gyun, nothing spectacular, but you will never get lost – and some of the special effects were quite brilliant, such as on the bridge when the Containment trucks were raining down.  It does struggle a bit in the scenes containing lots of water – but that is a problem for all films that give themselves a water setting – the physics of water never works quite right in water tanks.  CGI water has improved things a lot mind you.

So in conclusion – this is a film well worth seeing – enjoy it on its’ merits – but remember this is a Disaster movie….


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