R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Tony Mitchell
scr Matthew Cope, Nick Morley
with Robert Carlyle, Jessalyn Gilsig, Tom Courtenay, Joanne Whalley, David Suchet, David Hayman, Tom Hardy, Angus Barnett, Martin Ball, Nigel Planer, Poppy Miller, Pip Torrens, Peter Wight
release UK 24.Aug.07
07/UK 1h40
Going underground: Hardy, Barnett, Gilsig and Carlyle

courtenay whalley suchet

Flood Like a 1970s made-for-TV disaster movie, this film resurrects cliches we'd completely forgotten about, all in the name of offering us glimpses of London under several metres of water. It's a truly terrible movie, but rather good fun.

Rob (Carlyle) is the engineer in charge of London's Thames Barrier, which protects the city from high tides and was designed by his estranged father Leonard (Courtenay). His estranged wife Sam (Gilsig) manages the barrier, and is put to the ultimate test when Leonard's doomsday scenario comes true: a super-storm arrives at the same moment as the year's highest tide. Now these three need to put aside their estrangement and work with the government's crisis manager (Whalley), the Deputy Prime Minister (Suchet) and the gung ho general (Hayman) to save as many people as possible.

From the moment the pedestrian musical score starts booming, we know exactly where we are. Every element of that tired formula is here, as family melodrama collides with monstrous disaster, giving birth to massive special effects sequences and bittersweet heroics. Plus rather a lot of life-threatening water, to remind us of films like Titanic and Poseidon. To be fair, there are some spectacular special effects shots, although others look extremely ropey on the big screen.

How the filmmakers corralled a cast like this is anyone's guess, but that's nothing to how they got them to utter such banal dialog. Carlyle and Whalley at least go for broke. Courtenay only hams it up half-heartedly, as Suchet and Hayman have exactly two personality traits between them. Meanwhile, Hardy somehow emerges with his dignity as a trapped Underground worker, and Gilsig holds her own with all these heavyweights.

Fortunately, the filmmakers seem to realise what a preposterous mess this is, so they stir in ironic touches like Tube ads for the London Boat Show or Storm Watches, plus a christening scene featuring a lengthy passage about, yes, water. But these glimpses of wit drown (sorry) in the familiar mire of political manoeuvring, threats of military might, family tensions and people doing very stupid things. In other words, it's trashy fun with lots of cheap thrills.

cert 12 themes, violence, some language 30.Aug.07

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2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall