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HBO presents
Tsunami: The Aftermath (2006)

"You're not angry. You lost your whole family, you're not angry?"
- Ian Carter (Chiwetel Ejiofor)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: April 25, 2007

Stars: Tim Roth, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sophie Okonedo
Other Stars: Hugh Bonneville, Toni Collette, Gina McKee, Will Yun Lee, Samrit Machielsen
Director: Bharat Nalluri

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations)
Run Time: 03h:05m:48s
Release Date: April 24, 2007
UPC: 026359407925
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

HBO Films has once again turned its green-lights to gold. Their latest original to hit DVD is the 2006 two-part miniseries, Tsunami: The Aftermath, a stirring tale of disaster, loss, and finding hope in the most dire of circumstances.

At a Phuket, Thailand resort, a group of scuba divers has returned from an outing to a horrific discovery: everything near land is destroyed and numerous dead bodies are afloat in the water as the result of one of the most severe tsunamis in recorded history. These lucky survivors struggle to find their family and friends; one of them, Susie Carter (Sophie Okonedo), is able to reunite with her husband, Ian (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who tells her that he lost their young daughter in the chaos. Another woman, Kim (Gina McKee) can't find her husband, yet does reach her son, who survived, but is greatly injured.

Meanwhile, help comes in the form of the British Consul, Tony Whittaker (Hugh Bonneville), who travels from Bangkok with aid worker, Kathy (Toni Collette). Also struggling to cope is a young Thai man named Than (Samrit Machielsen) who continues to help those around him despite the total destruction of his village. The final piece to this sad puzzle is scrappy journalist Nick Fraser (Tim Roth), who, along with his photographer Chai (Will Yun Lee), digs up stories in the aftermath.

The key to this miniseries is the acting, and an amazing ensemble is able to hold our interest for every minute of the three-hour running time. Okenedo and Ejiofor received Golden Globe nominations for their performances and rightfully so. Theirs are the most emotionally demanding roles and they generate genuine empathy on a consistent basis. Anyone with a small child will simply melt when these two are reflecting on their lost daughter and will cheer for a reunion, despite the long odds of one actually happening. Collette also received a nod from the Golden Globe voters, and she is simply amazing. Roth's story arch is the least compelling, but he more than holds his own as usual—we don't see enough of Roth these days, as he seems to favor quality over quantity when it comes to choosing projects.

Made on location in Thailand, every exterior shot is one of great beauty and lush vistas, despite being filmed in some of the same locations that were at the epicenter of the destruction. Cinematographer John de Borman crafts such incredible-looking images that we're left feeling even more devastated by the knowledge that this place was even more pleasing to the eyes before the disaster. It's rare that a film's visuals serve as a character in their own right, but that's definitely the case here.

The interweaving stories are nearly as compelling as the acting, with these fictional plotlines nicely blended around this real-life tragedy. The most impressive aspect of director Bharat Nalluri's saga is his unwillingness to sugarcoat anything. Broadcast on HBO, writer Abi Morgan had the freedom to stay tough throughout the script, giving us believable outcomes for each character's struggle. While it can be tough to take in at times, such daring material is what most films are sorely lacking these days.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in its original 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen format, the film looks nearly as impressive as the HD broadcast. Things aren't quite as clear and smooth as HD, though, but overall, the images are amazingly detailed and sharp. Vivid colors and accurate flesh tones dominate the transfer, while contrast and black levels are dead on, and there aren't any print flaws.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix also mirrors that of the impressive HBO broadcast track, complete with active surrounds and nice directional effects. Overall, the film is dialogue-driven and this track delivers clear speech that works in perfect tandem with the rest of the mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring HBO Films, Little Children, The New World
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Book Gatefold
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only extras are a pair of featurettes. The Story Behind the Film runs over nine minutes and uses cast and crew interviews to touch on all aspects of the production, as well as both the real tragedy and the story that was based on it.

The six-minute Recreating Nature's Fury centers on the tough, sensitive job of putting the visuals of such a dire tragedy on film. We also get a few trailers for other DVD releases.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

It's becoming more and more difficult for HBO Films to top a previous effort, but Tsunami: The Aftermath raises the already elevated bar even higher. This three-hour miniseries might not give the most accurate feel for what this tragedy was all about but the human stories being told are unforgettable. A nicely packaged two-disc set isn't filled with extra features, but the audio and video are topnotch.


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