Saturday, August 27, 2016


Thought I had while watching this: I'd never expect Hollywood to end in any way other than Jung-soo getting out, a South Korean movie just might decide to have the rescue efforts end with pulling bodies out from under the wreckage, including the cute little pug dog. Korean films will just sometimes go to a darker place than one might expect.

One thing that amused me more than it should - pretty much everyone in this movie has a Samsung phone, because it's Korean and nearly every movie or television show will have one company pay for product placement and then everybody uses that phone (most amusing cases - Elementary, which posits that New York has the highest density of Windows Phone users in the world, and last year's Chinese film The Witness, where the killer had a whole drawer full of the latest smartphone and the blind girl used the same touchscreen model). Anyway, it was pretty specifically my phone, and toward the end of its battery life, as Jung-soo was trying to eke just a few more seconds out of it, he popped the battery out and started biting at it the end, maybe trying to use his tongue to wet the contacts or something. Having had a battery run down unusually fast (and charge unusually slow) that day, I couldn't help but wonder: Is this a thing people regularly do? Does it work?

Anyway, I dig it, and as usual hope more Korean films hit American screens, although the director's previous movies, A Hard Day, is the one you should check out after seeing this one.

Teoneol (Tunnel)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 26 August 2016 in AMC Boston Common #19 (first-run, DCP)

A lot of things are graded on a sliding scale, but foreign films are often on one that slides both ways - there's a crowd that treats "mainstream" as a dirty word and one that asks why they should bother dealing with subtitles if it doesn't have something really special and unique. Both those groups may wind up unfairly dismissing Tunnel rather than enjoying it for the well-executed, occasionally clever rescue thriller that it is.

The man in need of rescue is Lee Jung-soo (Ha Jung-woo), a family man headed home to his wife So-hyun (Bae Doo-na) and daughter Su-jin via the just-opened Hado Tunnel when the lights flicker, cracks start to appear, dirt starts to fall, and he can't accelerate fast enough to avoid the larger debris. Trapped and alone, he's able to call emergency services, though they don't comprehend the scale of the issue until they arrive. Now, Task Force Chief Kim Dae-kyung (Oh Dal-su) is charged with getting him out, but it will take days, if not weeks.

As disaster scenarios go, the one one presented here is kind of an interesting scale - big and impressive when they do an establishing shot, crushingly intimate when the focus is on Jung-soo and his struggles to survive underneath. That contrast will wind up driving a good deal of the plot later on, of course - digging through either the mountain above or the debris filling the tunnel is a lot of effort to recover what may eventually just be a corpse - but in the meantime, it could be a bit of a challenge for filmmaker Kim Seong-hoon to go back and forth between the two.potentially losing the overwhelming claustrophobia when jumping back to Dae-kyung and his perspective. At a certain point, Kim sacrifices this willingly, letting Jung-soo push away a some debris and get a little room to move around and a reason to talk even as his isolation increase, but Kim's thoughtful in doing so. A little progress on Jung-soo's part creates uncertainty about how far away help is in exchange for a little less purity in its apocalyptic dread.

Full review on EFC.

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