This film is exceptionally wet – and it not just from tears

Asia has recently made some great disaster movies but I can imagine them hitting home so much more due to recent events this year. Following in the footsteps of Tidal Wave, Aftershock and Sinking of Japan comes 252 Sign of Life which is both gripping and melodramatic in equal measures. Despite its overly heroic Hollywood moments that come right out of Independence Day’s book of filmmaking, it’s a great film.

Released: 2008

Runtime: 2hrs 8 mins

The Premise

A series of Typhoons set off a chain of events that causes a tsunami to sweep across our main characters who are all trapped in a subway station. Can they find rescue before the water finds them?

The Disasters Faced

A tsunami, a hail storm, flash flooding, cave-ins, leaking gas and an improvised blood transfusion using a fish tank filter! However, on the back of the UK box, there’s a clear picture of a scene where a Tornado is hitting the city. I have no idea where it’s come from because it’s not in the film at all. Boooo!!!!

The Execution

The disaster itself happens twenty minutes into the film after all the main characters are introduced. In this respect, the film is very true to the genre’s roots and it’s nice to get a quick look at all the characters lives before disaster strikes. When it does, the ten-minute sequence is fantastic and very well shot with dramatic slow-mos and reaction shots. If you’re unfamiliar to Asian filming it may come across a bit overly dramatic but this type of editing is commonplace in Asian films. From there the five survivors battle against each other as much as the elements to survive in a sub-contained space that reminds me very much of how the film Cube worked. Pitting one antagonistic character off against the rest. Of course, no film is a true disaster film without a child and this one is deaf! To be honest, though, she is so adorable and non-whiny she is one of the best children in a disaster movie I’ve come across. The other storyline features the rescue workers outside who are trying their best to get to survivors spurred on by the mum of the child left behind screaming at them and looking generally distraught for the majority of the film. Of course, everyone’s related as well so that ups the stakes. Be prepared for lots of crying, lots of screaming, lots of high drama of “you’re our only hope””.

The big effects sequence is superb and dramatic

The Effects

The CGI of the tsunami is quite well done and the flash flood in the tunnel is really interesting to see. Where the film comes into its own is by using a lot of real water and large volumes. The flash flooding, particularly as the subways collapses is really well done – as are the sets of carnage afterwards. I was really impressed.

Why It’s Worth Watching

232 Sign Of Life is a very well made film. If you’re after pure effects, this won’t tick your boxes because a lot of the second half of the film actually ends up delving into the characters via flashbacks and revolves around the plot to get them out. This is more of a character-driven disaster movie. The characters bar one are all likeable but flawed but you care about them and root them on. The only downside is there are some really silly triumphant moments where about 100 rescue workers stand in awe while one man walks out carrying his friend. It’s all very Hollywood.

Drinking Game

Slow motion drama or crying.

Best Death

**Spoilers** Not one of the main characters die. However, the subway scene where people are washed away is really well done.

The perils of being a deaf child in a disaster are all too clear (and cute) throughout this movie

Favourite Character

The little girl Shiori (Ayane Omori) is simply adorable. Her moments towards the end of the film are heart-wrenching.

Weirdest Moment

The finale is just a bit overly melodramatic and the last minute of the film made me chuckle as hundreds of rescue workers instead of helping, decide to just stare. Not very helpful at all!

Random Trivia

252 252 is the actual code for survivors in an emergency in Japan.


I really enjoyed 252 Sign of Life. The obvious drinking game is to take a shot when someone cries or screams but to be fair for once that misses the point. Well made, although perhaps too melodramatic for its own good, 252 is well worth two hours of your disaster movie time.

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