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FLOOD

Available on DVD

Flood DVD





Rob Morrison -
Robert Carlyle

Sam Morrison -
Jessalyn Gilsig

Leonard Morrison -
Tom Courtenay

Commissioner Nash -
Joanne Whalley

Deputy Prime Minister Campbell -
David Suchet

Keith Hopkins -
Nigel Planer


OTHER BRITISH APOCALYPSES
Dead Set
Surviviors (2008)
Quatermass





Episode 1

The storm of the millennium breaks on the Scottish town of Wick, raising tide levels and flooding the whole town, killing most of the residents. When the storm turns abruptly south, fears are raised that the storm surge, in conjunction with the high tide, will overwhelm the Thames Barrier. With only hours before disaster strikes, the authorities initiate desperate evacuation procedures.

Disaster movies dominated the 70s, but until recently they were a genre as dead as the western. In recent years, however, the disaster movie has made something of a comeback (DANTE'S PEAK, VOLCANO, DAYLIGHT, ARMAGEDDON) and with concerns about global warming and climate change being raised on an almost daily basis by the media it seems that they are big business again. THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW brought a whole new Ice Age down on the northern hemisphere whilst the BBC production SUPERSTORM had scientists created and abating freak weather conditions in equal measure.

ITV's FLOOD is, all directorial flashes notwithstanding, an old fashioned disaster movie at heart. A whole host of characters are introduced to us before the running and the screaming starts in the hope that we can get to know them and their ultimate fates be important to us. Sadly this proves not to be the case. Almost all of the characters here are stock disaster movie people taken from the big book of disaster movie cliches. You want a scientist who predicts it all but isn't believed? We've got one. You want an engineer who was at the heart of the project but left when he became estranged from his wife and boss? Got one of those too. A couple of maintenance workers who are roaming the tunnels without a clue as to what is happening? No problem there. Stroppy teenager? Check.

And you can't blame the cast either. You couldn't ask for more reliable hands than Robert Carlyle or Tom Courtenay or Joanne Whalley or David Suchet, but even they struggle with some truly dreadful dialogue and soap opera storylining. Robert Carlyle struggles to find his trademark charm in a generally dislikeable character saddled with Jessalyn Gilsig's jarring american ex-spouse. Fortunately, David Suchet's deputy prime minister proves to be more capable and less sleazy than the real thing might possibly be and Joanne Whalley's police commissioner is commendably no-nonsense. Nigel Planer's completely wet and useless Met Office boss really does look out of place.

And then comes the action. This is a disaster movie after all. The storm surge looks pretty impressive in long shot as London streets are inundated, but when the destruction is shown closer up the limitations of the TV budget CGI becomes apparent. For every successful shot there is another that makes you wince.

The more nuts and bolts actors being washed away in the water stuff is fine though. There are stupid plot points (the heroes jump off the relative safety of the Thames barrier into a tidal wave because it's the only safe thing to do etc), but on the whole there is enough pace and activity to keep that to a minimum and it does all end on a couple of nice cliffhangers.

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Episode 2

The survivors of the initial storm surge battle to stay alive as the water thunders up along the Thames and out across the city. Leonard Morrison ends up in the Cobra control room trying to anticipate the devastation and come up with a plan to mitigate it. That plan requires the opening of sluices higher up the Thames to create an opposing surge of water that will wash the tide back out to sea, but first the inoperative Thames Barrier will have to be restored.

The soap opera storylines are put into abeyance in the second part of this thriller, allowing the characters to get on with the job of nearly dying a lot in the water and running around the control room demanding information and giving orders. The dialogue is less awful than much of what was in the first episode, but the plot does require the characters to do a lot of silly things. What nobody does, however, is ask how high the water is going to be and send people up the nearest tall building. And nobody explains how Jessalyn Gilsig can spend hours in freezing water with nothing more than a silk blouse and not catch as much as a chill.

The traditional disaster movie roots come out all the more in this second episode as characters escape by the skin of their teeth, or through the sacrifice of others, jumping from one dire disaster (watch out for that falling car, crawl quickly up the flooding pipe, escape from the dead end room, pass Go and collect 200. Events in the control room are more believable and provide the stronger drama as those who are safe are forced to make decisions about people's lives. Joanne Whalley dominates this section, with able support from David Suchet.

The plot isn't afraid of killing people off either, sometimes unexpectedly. There are some surprisingly suspenseful moments and also some surprisingly powerful scenes of loss, usually the ones where the actors are allowed to get on with it without being hamstrung by the poor dialogue.

Scenes of the drowned London are impressive, but the disaster seems to be dragged out a bit as the surge continues up the Thames even after the storm has turned away. The pace drops off alarmingly and the threat no longer seems to register.

And just how stupid are engineers anyway? Who designs a backup system that lies beneath the waterline and only works when the room is sealed? And why didn't anyone think to bring a few more aqualungs along? They might have come in handy.

FLOOD won't be going down in the disaster hall of fame, nor probably feature highly on any of the actors' CVs in future, but it does enough to be a successful time passer.

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