Director: Kim Sung-hoon
This was a big hit in Korea earlier in the year
and got some distribution play around the world - even now in Bangkok - and
it deserves every ticket it has sold. Fun and exhilarating at times that
will have you on the edge of your seat even though this being a Korean film
you expect that it will probably end up ok - but then The Host always hangs
over our heads as a lesson that movies don't always have happy endings. To
classify it, it is your typical disaster/suspense/comedy/family/romance film
with a heavy emphasis on the suspense. This seems to be the director's (Lee
Sang-geun) debut film which amazes me as it is so sure-handed as he zigs
and zags between the various genres and mood swings. It also looks like a
reasonably big budget that CJ Entertainment gave him. By the end I was nearly
out of breath and I did nothing but sit in my seat and munch on popcorn.
Yong-nam (Jo Jung-suk) is moving into his late 20's without much to say for
himself. Not exactly a slacker but unable to find a job and so lives with
his parents and works out on the nearby playground's bars and devices strengthening
his arms and legs. He was an avid rock climber but his spirit seems to have
been broken when a fellow female climber turned him down for a date. His
family is your typical Korean movie family - throwing insults and slaps around
like Halloween candy - but beneath the surface there is a deep abiding love.
Still Yong-nam is a disappointment and even his young nephew pretends he
isn't related to him. Every family has one.
The mother's 70th birthday arrives and they and extended family celebrate
at a hotel restaurant where not coincidentally the girl crush is working.
This is Eui-joo (Im Yoon-ah aka Yoona, once a member of a popular K-group
called Girl's Generation) who has a creepy boss that harasses her and a nowhere
job. The party commences, singing, fun - and then the comedy ceases - like
a snap of a bull whip. A disgruntled worker releases an extremely toxic gas
into the air that spreads through Seoul like a wildfire and people start
dying. The birthday party doesn't realize what is happening till it is too
late to escape and the gas is coming.
There is only one way. Up. And up. As the gas rises up further, Eui-joo and
Yong-nam desperately fight for a way out. And soon the whole world is watching
them on TV. After about 30 minutes of broad family comedy the film goes into
high gear and never slows down. Absolutely fun and thrilling. I will be surprised
if Hollywood doesn't come calling for this one - it is such a simple idea
I have to wonder why no one thought about it before. Most of the characters
here fall into comfortable Korean types that we always come upon - the bickering
but loving parents, the married nagging sisters who want Yong-nam to do something
with his life, the coward - but that all works to the films advantage because
it is the escape that matters leaving everything behind it. The two leads
are both fine - Yoona is especially fine - and though I have no idea how
much of the climbing and scaling buildings they are doing - it sure looks
authentic and terrifying.