Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Haeundae": Korean disaster epic shows what a mega-tsunami would be like

The Korean disaster movie “Haeundae”, directed by Je-gyun Yun, (website) really does lay on the line what could happen to a major coastal city (the Haeundae section of Busan) if a really big tsunami (100 meters or more) hit after an undersea earthquake or avalanche (it’s the latter that would really do this.) In the film’s final forty minutes, the tsunami hits with a one-two punch; we see it knocking over high rise buildings (just as in the movie “Deep Impact”) but then a lot of them are standing still; the final panoramic shot in this 2.35:1 film does show the damage that could be done. The bridge rescue sequences (and the bit about the freighter colliding with it and piling up into it – something like that happened in Katrina) are great. There is plenty of “women and children first” and self-sacrifice (a guy jumps off the chopper rope to drown to let everyone else get saved).

The movie opens with the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, and much of the first two thirds is punctuated with geologist Kim Hwi (Joon-Hoong Park) making dire predictions of what could happen to Busan. But he also gets involved in a domestic subplot that rather resembles the complexity of “Babel”, but seems superfluous – except that at one point he brings up the trendy subject of eminent domain.

The film comes from CJ-Entertainment and “JK” (a company with a train for a trademark). I rather expected this film to become an ambitious “roadside attraction.”

Attribution link for Wikimedia picture of tsunami evacuation route

Ironically, on the same day that I saw this film, a deadly tsunami did hit the Somoans in the Pacific. More details will be forthcoming soon.

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