One day, Judge David Johnson caught a killer wave when he was out surfing. It was totally tubular. Okay, it was semi-tubular. Fine, fine, he didn't even go to the beach that day. Happy?
Take your last breath.
Grumpy, disheveled scientist John McAdams (Angus MacFayden, Braveheart) is surprised one day when he's brought into a top-secret brain trust of renowned researchers to tackle a major environmental problem. The enclave, called at the request of the US government, is investigating a series of fearsome tidal waves—or, dare I say it, killer waves?—that have been devastating parts of the world. Most recently, the coast of New Jersey has been wiped out thanks to one of these lethal surfs.
Theories abound as to the cause of these phenomena. Global Warming is of course targeted as a possible agent, and McAdams himself blames overpopulation and industrialization for the unpredictability of the sea. One crazy scientist believes these waves are manmade and being used as weapons.
Eventually McAdams and his comely cohort Sophie (Karine Vanasse) subscribe to his point of view and believe that the killer waves are the product of a malicious entity. But who is behind the deadly tsunamis? As the investigation continues, the guilty parties are boiled down to two possibilities: terrorists or a large corporation. Which one do you think it's going to be?
Why, it's the corporation! And screw the spoiler tag, because if you've seen any action/disaster movie in the last God-knows-how-many-years you know that the diabolical corporations are always to blame. This particular corporation is especially nasty because its shareholders apparently don't mind wiping out millions of people and causing trillions of dollars in damage just so they can reap the reconstruction costs and build a stupid sea wall.
Unfortunately it takes over 100 minutes to reach this obvious conclusion so the never-was-there-in-the-first-place suspense is needlessly protracted. Still, who cares? In this case it's far less plausible I suppose that some cave-dwelling Islamofascists will be able to summon the technology to generate humongous tidal waves. I guess only a mega-corporation would be able to do it (though I'm shocked we didn't get a potential idiot Truther storyline and having the US government behind the whole thing with controlled tsunamis) so this favorite villain of Hollywood would have to suffice. The Neo-Nazis and Eastern European jewel thieves can now exhale a sigh of relief.
Back to the waves, the real centerpiece of the film. I highly doubt you're tuning into this miniseries to be wowed by the deft conspiratorial storytelling and likely just want to see some CGI waves knock over a lighthouse. The visual effects are up and down. On the upside, the waves actually look pretty cool—until they crash onto dry land, and then the particulars of rendering individual water droplets become too much for the budget to bear. When real actors are mixed with the special effects, things begin to stutter, e.g. the opening scene with some teenager running from obvious blue screen work and McAdams and Sophie driving a speed-boat up a wave. But, to be fair, I've seen a lot worse.
One of the major hurdles for the film is its length. Originally aired as a TV mini-series, the 175-minute runtime is daunting as well as it should be. There is much padding here, not surprising considering this story could have been told in 90 minutes easily. But the acting is okay and director Bruce McDonald shoots with a slick, 24-like style that's fun to watch. I'll never watch it again and the title sucks, but Killer Wave isn't an all-out disaster.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks clean, and as a result negatively impacts the CGI believability. The 5.1 mix delivers the disaster soundscape adequately. Extras include a brief blue screen documentary and a series of cast interviews. My favorite moment: when actor Tom Skerritt talks about real-life nefarious corporations that could be compared to the fictional mass-murdering company from the film. Adelphia? Really?!? I love Hollywood.
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