Director:  Kim Sung-hoon
Year: 2019
Rating: 8.0

Country: Korea

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.