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The Big Uneasy

HD   NR Closed Captioning

Harry Shearer

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Plot Summary

The first documentary by New Orleans resident and longtime "mockumentarian" Harry Shearer (This Is Spinal Tap; A Mighty Wind), The Big Uneasy follows three remarkable people - the leaders of two scientific investigation teams, and one whistle-blower - as they reveal the true story of why the city flooded, why it could happen again, and why other U.S. cities are at risk. It's the "news" the mainstream news media missed; an inside look at a disaster that could have been prevented from the people who were there. Critics have called it "A gripping, persuasive film. Essential Viewing" (The Los Angeles Times), "Poignant...indispensable" (The New York Times) and "A scathing airtight case." (Village Voice).

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews


  • Reviews Counted: 23
  • Fresh: 17
  • Rotten: 6
  • Average Rating: 6.9/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Fresh: A cogent 98-minute investigative chronicle that, along with Spike Lee's pair of HBO films, is an indispensable part of any history of New Orleans before, during and after Katrina – Daniel M. Gold, New York Times, Sep 24, 2010

Rotten: Well-intended and informative, but also unfocused, unwieldy and a little smug. – John Anderson, Variety, Oct 1, 2010

Fresh: Shearer builds an airtight case to prove his thesis, and one of his most chilling arguments is a roll call of brave souls whose lives and careers have been systematically wrecked in pursuit of the truth. – Ernest Hardy, Village Voice, May 17, 2011

Fresh: "The Big Uneasy" is scary stuff indeed. – Lou Lumenick, New York Post, May 20, 2011

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews

"The Big Uneasy"

I saw this at the AFI Silver Spring Theatre in March, and I'm buying it now because Shearer's film tells the story of why New Orleans flooded, and it wasn't a natural disaster. It was a man-made disaster. The film focuses on three people who tried to speak truth to power about how the Army Corps of Engineers caused the flooding of New Orleans and continue to put the city -- and dozens of others across the U.S. -- at risk. Each of these people has been punished and shunned for trying to tell the truth, making the film inspirational viewing for anyone who has ever been afraid to speak out, despite knowing that their superiors were not doing the right thing. With few exceptions, this film is excellent reporting and fine documentary, free of cant and ideological overdetermination. The film is worth viewing, too, for anyone interested in how to communicate complicated technical information to a wide public.

Grab a hankie and get ready to laugh till you weep

What an emotional roller-coaster ride. I was born in New Orleans and have family all through the Gulf South. I know the difference between a "natural" disaster and what befell the good people of New Orleans in the days during and just after Hurricane Katrina hit the region. I've followed the science and the news about this unnatural event for years and all I can say about this documentary is: RIGHT ON.

I am so proud to call Harry Shearer my fellow American -- he has been a relentless voice of reason in the years since Katrina hit.

His wit and wisdom has enabled him to take the convoluted facts of earth science and ecology and massive engineering projects and make them actually entertaining to listen and learn about.

This documentary was blessedly short on pictures of dead and dying human beings (THANK YOU, Harry) while at the same time making you so angry at the incompetence, ignorance and corruption that lead to the flooding of New Orleans that you want to jump up and do something about it.

John Goodman's brief skits were priceless, too. The music was great, of course.

But my heart goes out most of all to the brave and brilliant Dr. Ivor van Heerden who was famously warning us LONG before Katrina hit that the protections were inadequate; who fought hard to do real independent research about what went wrong, and who was punished by politicians and hacks at LSU for being a REAL scientist.

Keep speaking out, people. The alternative is unthinkable.

Post Apathy, Post Frivolity, Post Future.

This movie is very important. Frank Serpico once said that he preferred using the word "lamplighters" instead of "whistleblower" to describe the perseverance of certain individuals to stand up against the ridiculous odds of great adversity. There's a reason why our vernacular is wallpapered with Post-9 Eleven, and Post Katrina references. These are historical events which the United States had the capacity to prevent. By using over a century of scientific inquiry and advancements in engineering and endless committees to establish a superior standard of practical design. We failed, and failed miserably. What happened to our vision in this country? During the dustbowl days we figured out how to re-cultivate and re-design the layout of our farmlands to stop the onslaught of erosion. So here we are. This is the Future. Post 9-Eleven, Post Katrina, Post BP Gulf, Post Fukushima. We have developed more entertainment value out of memorializing our failures than preventing them. The folks in this film piece and Mr Shearer are champions for the silent voices. We need to support this and show some love for human endeavor instead of expressions of frivolity. We have a great opportunity ahead of us. Let us engage in it.

The Big Uneasy
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Customer Ratings