The Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 was the worst tsunami recorded in history with many lives lost. Man-sik experiences the disaster when he and his men get stranded mid-sea while deep-sea fishing. Man-sik felt guilty that he did not save the father of his long-time love, Yeon-hee. When he finally musters up the courage to propose to her, he is interrupted by the force of nature.
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. In the meanwhile, a mega-tsunami is created as Hwi feared and is headed straight for Haeundae...
The Americans and the Japanese filmmakers can be credited for pioneering and perfecting disaster theme movies. Think movies liked "The Towering Inferno", "The Day After Tomorrow", "Godzilla" and "Sinking of Japan". With "Haeundae: The Deadly Tsunami", the Koreans have come up with their own take. Not necessarily a good one but surely one that reeks strongly of Koreanism.
Set in the lovely city of Busan, "Haeundae" tells the stories of seemly unrelated four male protagonists, an ex deep-sea fisherman Man-sik who pins for Yeon-hee who runs a small eatery along the sea coast, Man-sik’s younger brother, Hyung-sik who works at as a coast guard, their good-for-nothing neighbour Dong-choon and a marine biologist, Kim Hwi who discovered the first signs of a pending Tsunami.
If not for the much touted Tsunami’s special effects, this movie obligingly consists of ingredients from a typical Korean TV drama where the main protagonists take their turns to cry, shout, laugh and romance the leading ladies. There are a few genuinely funny moments between the various leading men and ladies but it’s not substantial and convincing enough to setup the pending money shots. Bear in mind it’s almost an hour into the duration before we get to experience the first Tsunami effects. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s apparently encouraging for the filmmakers to introduce characters we can relate to and let the audience invest their emotions in them but pathetically the male protagonists look or behave like a couple of goofballs that a Tsunami perhaps is the next best thing for them.
Is director JK Youn trying to tell us it’s never too late to embrace and appreciate the one you love be it your partner or mother? I’m afraid so. Thus the story continues its path to build clichés upon clichés until the end. The ladies might find Hyung-sik’s sacrifice commendable but the male audience will most likely make a big joke out of it. Another tear jerking scene involves Kim Hwi and his estranged wife and daughter which will likely top the mother of all clichés. On the other hand, the relationship between Dong-choon and his mother’s endearing love for his wayward son is handled subtly which I’m puzzled JK never attempt to utilize this for the rest of the characters.
As compared to Roland Emmerich’s 1997 "Independence Day" or the recent "2012", the CG effects still has some way to go though the physical flooding effects are pretty well-coordinated. I’m pretty sure the Koreans decide to bypass the usual 'straight-in-your-face' visual excitement and instead focus their attention on the characters study. Unfortunately, it’s filled with weak plotting that somehow fails to balance between the humour bits and the tragic elements that unfold. As for those looking for non-stop adrenalin will be deeply disappointed.
This DVD comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Surprisingly, there are very little scenes in the movie that stands out in the audio department as on the whole, dialogue plays a larger part here as compared to fancy sound effects.
Review by Linus Tee
Posted on 24 November 2009