Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Flood (2007)

Flood: Film 6 out of 10, DVD 6 out of 10, On Sale 29th October 2007 at a typical online price of £12.89. Imdb rating at time of writing is 5.6

Confusion abounds over whether Flood is a genuine British film that was released theatrically, or simply a direct-to-DVD unaired TV show. What can be stated with some degree of certainty is that in New Zealand it aired as a two-part TV drama, and that if it did get a theatrical release in the UK, it's probably only because somebody got carried away with how well another TV drama (aka The Queen) had done at the oscars, and assumed this might have similar box office success.

Whether the release to just one or two cinema's was a deliberate choice (to avoid the dreaded 'Direct to DVD' tag) or enforced by a need to be sensitive in a year that saw unprecedented bad weather hit Britain earlier this year, is a bit of a moot point, because unfortunately the 'film' has 'TV drama' rather than 'epic disaster movie' written all over it.

Robert Carlyle plays marine engineer Rob Morrison

Perhaps the biggest giveaway of its TV origins is the cast. OK, so maybe Tom Courtenay and Robert Carlyle can be counted as movie stars, but they stand isolated from so many stalwarts of British TV series over the years that part of the problem with the film is the continual distraction of wanting to 'name the show this or that actor was last in'. I lost count after wasting too much time trying to remember 'Neil from the Young Ones', 'that girl who got raped in The Jewel in the Crown' or 'Inspector Poirot', as familiar faces appeared in quick succession in a never-ending series of cameos from the British TV acting establishment.

Jessalyn Gilsig, recognisable from bit parts in several popular U.S. TV shows, is brought in to help increase the chance of possible sales in the USA, and helps round out a strong cast that are in urgent need of a half-decent script.

Jessalyn Gilsig plays the part of 'Thames Barrier expert' and ex-wife who Morrison is still in love with. You can just guess how this is all going to end, can't you?!

It was standard fare in the Hollywood disaster movies of the 70's to have little in the way of 'character' or 'plot', because the emphasis was always on the big effects. But things have moved on, and without the big-budget effects available to Hollywood, the clichéd seen-it-all-100-times-before storyline just comes across as weak, uninspired and, by the time we've got an hour in and most of the CGI work has been shown, just plain dull.

The story, for what it is, centres primarily around three characters: Rob Morrison (Robert Carlyle with an accent that is sure it's British, but can't seem to make up its mind as to whether it's working class or middle class) is a marine engineer, still in love with the wife Sam (a Thames Barrier 'expert') who has been separated from him for several months. For added depth, the character also gets an estranged father who is resented for having spent too much time with silly ideas about the Thames Barrier not working, rather than at home nursing his dying, cancer-stricken, wife. It's exactly rocket science to work how these relationships are all going to pan out, given that 'unexpected' floods are suddenly hurling towards London, threatening to kill hundreds of thousands of people.

Even if the character set-up we're given had been less 'do it by numbers', it's doubtful the characters would be any more sympathetic given the way they're pushed aside whenever someone somewhere has decided the 'film' isn't moving fast enough. Edits are fast and flashy, mainly one suspects to cover up the fact that there's so little money available for what we've really come to see here - those CGI shots of London under water.

The shooting style doesn't help either, featuring what looks like a poor imitation of the big American shows like 24 and Battlestar Galactica: all hand-held, quick-zoom, 'adjust the focus whilst shooting' nonsense that the Americans are currently in love with. If one switched into this DVD half-way through one could be forgiven for thinking one had turned on a recent episode of Spooks, albeit an episode with a higher-than-average budget for water tanks, if a lower-than-average budget for the script!

The biggest sin though appears to have been the rush to fit everything into two 50-minute halves for TV sales (as evidenced by a silly cliff-hanger exactly mid-way into the running time of the 'movie') which has made a nonsense of any sense of continuity and pacing. The first half tacks on a silly 'Scotland flooded first' to lure the viewers in at the start, meaning that the rest of the first 50 minutes has to be rushed to get to the cliff-hanger in time, and the second half drags to the point of utter tedium once the flood has finished doing its stuff.

As just one example of this poor editing, consider a scene where we have Carlyle's character refusing point-blank to even meet his father, denouncing him as a crazy lunatic with a deluded obsession that the Thames Barrier won't cope with any floodwater, only to then cut to a scene where his father is reporting via video camera to the government, with the suddenly reconciled-for-no-apparent-reason son appearing alongside him and speaking up on his behalf! It's a rather confusing mess!

Inspector Poirot is called in to help, but finds it all too stressful. Plenty of dead bodies, but you can't arrest a flood!

All that being said, it's doubtful that disaster movie fans, who after all are the most likely purchasers given the way the DVD has been presented and marketed, will necessarily care about such things. The same vicarious thrills experienced on seeing The White House destroyed in Independence Day back in the 90's, can be experienced here again, with all the big London landmarks having their moments of CGI fame. And whilst the CGI work may not be up to Hollywood blockbuster standards, they're thankfully superior to those featured on the BBC's 'flag ship' (stop laughing at the back, there) Saturday night offering Dr Who.

The cast, as one would expect given the pretty heavyweight talent featured here, do a sterling job of trying to deliver the shoddy lines they've been given, and the various water tank scenes are very impressive, particularly if you make believe you're watching a British TV show rather than a 'real' film.

Tom Courtenay plays Morrison's estranged father. Seems he made a lousy Dad because he spent every waking hour warning people what would happen if there was a flood. But will he get the chance to say 'Nyaaa! Nyaaa!' before he drowns?!

Picture quality is up to TV broadcast standards, and the sound too is acceptable, particularly when it needs to be expansive, during the big flood scenes.

Given the money that's been spent here (how will they make any of it back?!) one might have expected something some pretty decent material being available on the extra's front. It's clear that, in the action scenes at least, a lot of work was put in, and given the quality of the special effecs, along with the propensity of Soho FX house staff to talk endlessly and enthusiastically about their work, one might have expected quite a lot. Alas, all we get are a few tired sound-bites from a few of the main cast members and the producers, artificially split up by 'white text on black background' captioned questions. Annoyingly, the badly edited replies all fade out the sound before the picture, leaving actors with mouths moving but no sound before the next dreary caption appears.

If you live in London, or just fancy a bit of TV drama instead of yet another reality TV show, the DVD is probably worth a rental, if only to see some of our best British thespians at work, or to snigger at familiar landmarks being laid waste by water damage. But it's hard to imagine anybody wanting to sit through a repeat viewing, when so much of what's featured here seems to have already been shown on our screens many, many times before. It's not a terrible DVD but, when all things are taken into account one is forced to the conclusion that the characters are all too wet and that Flood is nothing more than a damp squib.

Tower Bridge goes under as Monty Python point out 'It's only a model!'

No comments: