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Tsunami Falls [Brian McWha, Canada, 2020]

How would you feel if you woke up to find out you only had two minutes to live? This is the central premise of Brian McWha’s slickly produced disaster short, Tsunami Falls. The film opens with an overhead tracking shot of a large expanse of water, intercut with a close-up of an alarm clock, introducing us to Thomas, who learns through a morning news bulletin that the coast on which he lives is about to be hit imminently by a tsunami.

Josh Dohy as Thomas

The film plays like an extended montage, with mostly wordless scenes of the character’s most pivotal moments of his life in flashback. A successful although slightly greying and hard-worn man in the present, we see the protagonist stare contemplatively out of the patio doors of his beach house to the sea, as he remembers his first bicycle, his first professional motorbike race, his first love (and break-up), his first marriage and first child, amongst other momentous occasions.

The cinematography is very polished, the slow motion motor racing scenes being particularly outstanding, capturing a certain grace and fluidity to something altogether more rough and fast-paced. The flashback moments themselves are a little clichéd, especially when paired with the overtly swelling orchestral score, making the screenplay feel, at times, something closer to a sport commercial for television.

The screenplay is, perhaps, the weakest element of an otherwise effective disaster film. It all feels a bit too neat – Thomas waking up at 9:02 am to 23 missed calls and switching on news of an earthquake about to hit in two minutes, as an example. In other places it feels as though the point is being overdriven, as in the break-up scene where Thomas catches his girlfriend cheating and we actually hear the argument, where other scenes had been appropriately and consistently silent.

In themselves, the separate production elements of Tsunami Falls are delivered with prowess but, combined, feel forced due to the minimal plot set-up, leaving the emotional payoff feeling slightly unearned. Despite these quibbles, it is clear that as a director, McWha displays a keen eye for spectacle and still delivers some fine moments of drama and sentimentality.


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