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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Tidal Wave [Blu-ray]

(aka "Haeundae")


(JK Youn, 2009)



Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: CJ Entertainment/JK Film

Blu-ray: Magnet (Magnolia Home Entertainment)



Region: FREE!

Runtime: 2:00:15.875

Disc Size: 46,872,527,938 bytes

Feature Size: 32,963,254,272 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.66 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard U.S Blu-ray Case

Release date: May 11th, 2010



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080P / 23.976 fps

Video codec: VC-1



DTS-HD Master Audio English 2365 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2365 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio Korean 2352 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 2352 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)



English, Spanish, none



• The Project – (9:35)

• Making of Tidal Wave – (45:00)

• Characters – (5:40)

• Production Design – (6:50)

• Music Score – (6:10)

• Sound Mixing – (13:20)

• CG Effects – (23:05)

• Cinematography – (10:50)

• Marketing – (11:30)

• Deleted Scenes – (13:15)

• Gag Reel – (5:50)



The Film: 7
Tidal Wave is the Korean remake of Mark Robson's 1974 movie, Earthquake, complete with the predicted trembler (and ensuing tsunami), ignored by the powers that be (actually just one particularly dim bureaucrat) for fear of ending up with kimchi on his face. There's even a live power line about to electrocute several would-be victims, a heroic life thrown away for one less worthy, and people rescued now only to swept away later.

The special effects are updated since the seventies, the devastation more catastrophic, the anguish more painful. To be sure, anguish is what the Koreans are good at. There's a good deal of screaming in this movie, most of it after more than half its length is spent in sorting out family dynamics and budding lovers. The other thing Korea is good at is mixing comedy with drama and horror, all in the same film, which we saw this to great effect in The Host.

As for the CG effects, Tidal Wave works best when it's trying to be funny and scary at the same time. There are a couple of scenes with a container ship dumping its cargo in unexpected places that's worth the price of the movie. The scale of the tsunami in this film is greater than the laws of physics will permit its actors to move about in. Yet move about they do. They run, they climb, they fall. Curiously, however, for a city built on the edge of a beach, not very many people can swim. There is one peculiar scene where a woman trapped in an elevator as the water gradually rises gives up when her feet can no longer touch the floor, even though there is three feet of space above her head. I guess Koreans don't know how to tread water.

Like many action films these days, only here on a grander scale, actors defy the laws of physics as they withstand the force of a gigazllion tons of crashing water and run faster than 300 mph when called upon (we don't actually see anyone run that fast, it's just the only way to explain how they could get from one point to another.) So you have to approach Tidal Wave with your brain in neutral, permitting the bodaciousness of the concept to wash over you while been swept away by the emotional sentiment. And in this regard, especially, the Korean movie is monstrously more effective than the American film, and better than most Hollywood disaster films.

One travel advisory if you're not used to popular Korean film and TV dramas: they take their drinking very seriously, by which I mean that they drink hard and embarrass themselves beyond anything we see on film in the west. I'm not sure if their drinking is really that out of control or if it is merely an accepted narrative device that writers and directors use to manifest a character's inner conflicts, but be warned: tsunami ahead.

Tidal Wave was big box office in Korea, selling over eleven million tickets. That's pretty impressive for a small country. If you've seen even a handful of Korean movies or TV dramas you will recognize some familiar faces here: Park Joong Hoon from Nowhere to Hide, Sol Kyung Gu (Public Enemy), Ha Ji Won (Duelist), my favorite: Lee Min Ki (I Really, Really Like You), Uhm Jung Hwa (Marriage is a Crazy Thing), and Song Jae Ho (The President's Last Bang.) If only the coincidences and the science were remotely on the same level as its ability to pull us into its emotional drama, Tidal Wave could have had classic potential instead of being simply a thoroughly enjoyable fun house ride with effects as good as anything we've seen from anywhere near that longitude. Better.


Image: 7/9   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Tidal Wave is a glossy, color-enhanced picture. The vivid color control is turned up along with high contrast lighting. The gloss does smear texture, though in this movie, it seems to work somehow. We also find some mild edge enhancement, most noticeable in some outdoor scenes where buildings can't seem to exist against a blank sky without help. Weird! Blacks are deep and noiseless. No other transfer issues of concern leaped off the screen.














Audio & Music: 8/7
Way back when I watched TV on a 13-inch monitor, I would place it between my fairly good speakers. The dynamic presentation of the speakers and amplification made it seem that the picture was larger, an impression that never failed to burst whenever there was text. Now I watch high definition material on a seven-foot screen, and the correspondingly huge aural environment of my surround sound system lends credibility to CG effects that are only about up to The Perfect Storm. Without a compelling audio mix (and let's hear it here for high definition's uncompressed audio), the tidal wave would just be so much froth and wiggly lines. Locational cues in the surrounds are accurate. There's some serious, impactful bass here – none of the fat whomping stuff that many films tack on just to let you know they're giving the matter a passing thought, but audio that has mass sufficient to make you duck for cover – not that it would do any good.

I should mention that Magnolia has provided a serviceable English language dub that is also in DTS-HD MA. A nice touch for those who desire it.


Operations: 7
The Special Features menu page lists all of the features in one window. Points for that. The idiomatic English translation is without spelling or usage mishaps, with subtitles in white, and not so large as to get in the way. The same cannot be said for the subtitles on the bonus features, which can sometimes compete with what I take to be information in Korean that stays on screen long after it's welcome.


Extras: 8
Except for their being mostly in only fair quality standard definition, the production features are thorough, sober and candid. I especially liked the segments on Sound Mixing, which I found instructive. Happily, the feature on the visual effects looks pretty good. All are in Korean with adequate English subtitles.



Bottom line: 7
I have to say I enjoyed this movie more than I expected. Disaster movies are almost necessarily predictable, and Tidal Wave has its share. One of the things I imagine most of us like to do is guess who's going to get in the neck, and how. In this, the movie has some surprises and, to my surprise, I did not feel cheated by them. The effects are fair-to-good, but the high definition image may tell you more than you want to know about them.

Leonard Norwitz
May 8th, 2010



About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.

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