In Korean with English/Chinese subtitles
Director: JK Youn
Cast: Sul Kyung-gu, Ha Ji-won, Park Joong-hoon,
Uhm Jung-hwa, Lee Min-ki, Kang Ye-won, Kim In-Kwon
RunTime: 1 hr 46 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films and InnoForm
Opening Day: 8 October 2009
The Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 was the worst tsunami recorded in history with more than 300,000 lives lost. Man-sik experiences the catastrophe first hand, when he and his men get stranded mid-sea while deep-sea fishing. All crew except one is rescued and Man-sik feels responsible for the death of the lost crew member – the father of Man-sik’s long-time love, Yeon-hee. Four years on after returning home, he is still unable to open up his heart to Yeon-hee because of the guilt. When he finally musters up the courage to propose to her, he is interrupted by the force of nature.
Man-sik’s younger brother Hyung-sik works as a coast guard. While on patrol, he rescues Hi-mi who had fallen off a yacht. The beautiful and spoiled vacationer from Seoul is instantly drawn to her rescuer and launches a bold campaign to win his heart. Hyung-sik finds himself attracted to her little by little.
A marine geologist Kim Hwi discovers that the Korean East Sea is showing signs of activity similar to the Indian Ocean at the time of the 2004 Tsunami and heads down to Haeundae to warn the authority. He runs into his ex-wife who is also in Haeundae to oversee an international event. With her, is their 7-year-old daughter whom he has never met. The fact that his daughter doesn’t know who he is gives rise to complex emotions in Hwi.
In the meanwhile, a mega-tsunami is created as Hwi feared and is headed straight for Haeundae, to the unaware vacationers enjoying a peaceful hot summer day.
Koreans had official join in the disaster movie genre with
Haeundae and this time, it’s not earthquakes or typhoon,
it’s Tsunami. For this grand debut, the filmmakers collaborated
with Polygon Entertainment, a special effects company that
worked on the Day after Tomorrow and Perfect Storm to create
a believable mega tsunami.
The thing is that although tsunami is a deadly disaster that
taken many lives and huge waves approaching the shorelines
are a terrifying sight to behold, it is not particularly cinematic
scary and it’s rather difficult to prolong it’s
fearful destruction. It seems that the film makers were aware
of such shortcomings of their chosen disaster and took a hammy
route around it.
First, they took 2/3 of the movie runtime (close to 1 hour)
to set up the various characters that will be facing the disaster
head on. It’s a long wait before the impending doom
arrives. While it wasn’t such a terrible wait, it felt
like watching a construction of a building purposely made
to be toppled over. No matter how this movie tried to give
the one dimension characters more layers to endear themselves
to the viewers, the blatant effort felt rather hollow as some
of them are made to die so that the audience tear ducts could
get a little squeeze. However as mention before, the wait
wasn’t that bad as the characters setup was mildly entertaining
in it’s own ways and there are some good looking actors
and actress to waste the time with.
If there’s anything that stood out as extraordinarily
wrong (as in amusingly incorrect), it will be like many other
disaster themed movies, Haeundae also breaks the laws of physic
and common sensibilities for melodrama sake. Excessive melodrama
ruled the day once again and characters are made to behave
in illogical manners or are being governed by the improbable
laws of physic so that the viewers could feel bad for them.
Just a few examples to share and ponder upon; how could someone
drowns in an enclosed area that partially filled with water?
It felt awfully illogical that the trapped subject couldn’t
tread water and breathe with the remaining air left in the
space available. It also poised question as in why does falling
into the sea would result in death when it was done perfectly
fine by the same person just a moment ago. Those are some
of the amusing questions that popped out in the minds of those
logical folks who have not been swept away with the extremely
illogical tear jerking tragedy that happening on the screen.
What about the giant CGI waves? Sadly while the waves were
adequately constructed for this tsunami movie, it’s
not anything that we haven’t seen before (in recent
years). There were some grand ideas with the usage of the
CGI waves but it does not instill the sense of awe when the
waves hit. Compared to the mildly entertaining drama that
went on in this movie, the special effects felt like it was
the minor event added to the main event.
average disaster movie strictly for Korean fans)
Review by Richard Lim Jr