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[Movie 2022] Emergency Declaration, 비상선언 - Song Kang Ho, Lee Byung Hun, Jeon Do Yeon


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August 7, 2022



Aug 4, 2022 8:40am PT



‘Emergency Declaration’ Review: Airborne Disaster Movie Crams All Your COVID Fears Into a Wild, 2 1/2-Hour Thrill Ride


Starring Song Kang-ho ('Parasite'), this creative high-anxiety Korean offering imagines a fast-acting viral outbreak at 35,000 feet.

By Peter Debruge




If I were put in charge of a film school, the first thing I would do is build a set — the cockpit and cabin of a modern airliner — and order all directing students to make a film that takes place aboard the plane. It’s my belief that creativity works best within constraints, and this seems as good a test as any to see what someone can do with a single location.

Case-in-point Korean adrenaline rush “Emergency Declaration” begins at the airport, where a nervous young man buys a ticket aboard the most crowded flight he can find: KI501 to Honolulu. In the bathroom, the suspicious-looking traveler, Ryu Jin-seok (Yim Si-wan), slices a hole under his arm and hides a capsule containing a fast-acting and incredibly contagious virus inside. From this point on, Jin-seok becomes a walking biological weapon, leaving the cops on the ground (led by “Parasite” star Song Kang-ho as Sgt. Koo) scrambling to find a solution while his fellow passengers start coughing up blood and collapsing in the aisles.


Believe it or not, “Emergency Declaration” was conceived before the pandemic, but it’s just about the most thrilling way a film can capitalize on our fears — of the virus, of flying, of governments making a problem worse — without directly exploiting the international nightmare we’ve all been living lately. For two and a half hours, writer-director Han Jae-rim ratchets up the anxiety, throwing one obstacle after another at the passengers on board KI501. What should they do when American authorities refuse to let them land in Honolulu? How to keep flying after both pilots die?

In some ways, the movie anticipates problems many of us faced when confronted with the real thing, like how much masks help in situations like these, or the business of the plane being turned away from foreign ports where fear of contagion trumped concerns for infected travelers. In others, it sells a fantasy alternate reality where the antidote to a virus can be found and delivered before the closing credits.


“Emergency Declaration” debuted as a midnight selection at the Cannes Film Festival a full year before opening in U.S. theaters, and seeing it there, surrounded by an audience of jittery masked cinephiles tentatively venturing back out into public gatherings, made the experience doubly nerve-racking. (Watching a bioterrorism thriller on streaming is one thing, but doing so in a room full of people who could infect you is another matter entirely.)


Plot-wise, the film has a lot in common with Korean blockbuster “Train to Busan,” about a zombie outbreak that turns a standard commute into a high-speed death trap. In both cases, the far-fetched science-fiction premise (this one considerably more plausible) serves as a chance to see how different personalities react to such a challenge — like the ex-pilot with a fear of flying (Lee Byung-hun) escorting his daughter to Honolulu for medical treatments, or those sending and receiving updates by cellphone throughout the trip.


Airline disaster movies are nothing new (they’ve been around long enough to inspire a Zucker brothers spoof more than 40 years ago), but when you have creative minds working to reconfigure the details in original ways, they never get old. Han makes things more interesting still by dispatching the unusually young villain early on. The culprit, Jin-seok, looks like a member of a K-pop boy band in a business suit (as played by ZE:A singer Yim, that’s almost exactly what he is): an eerily innocent-looking face with an indecipherable half-smile, à la Paul Dano in “Prisoners,” rather than your usual evil mastermind. Because Jin-seok infects himself, he’s among the first to die. “You think I boarded this plane planning to live?” he says, mocking the horrified passengers.


The outbreak claims dozens of casualties, and nearly everyone is infected by the end, as the plane faces an onslaught of other challenges: a steep plunge that sends unbuckled travelers bouncing against the ceiling, a desperate landing attempt in Japan that is met with missiles fired by military jets, and so on. Han and his editors double up during the most intense scenes, crosscutting between dire situations for maximum effect. With all the shocks it has in store, “Emergency Declaration” plays like an entire season of “24” fueled by Korean nationalism and compressed to (jumbo) feature length. Only the all-too-convenient antidote rings egregiously false.


Outrageousness comes with the territory in midair disaster movies, and Han doesn’t seem to mind audiences laughing at how far he pushes things — even though the press notes are full of high-minded talk of how “realistic” the film is supposed to be. Sure, the production design is convincing and the actors play it straight, but as the challenges escalate, eyes will roll. Inviting us in on the joke is a good strategy for engagement, and when audiences see this movie as a group, they erupt into applause after each set-piece.


From a storytelling perspective, seeing what Han can do with the interior of a plane — and a whole lot of CGI — is downright inspirational. If you had an airplane set as slick as this one to work with, I’d wager that pretty much any (contemporary) genre could be told at 35,000 feet. Cracking my hypothetical film-school assignment is just a matter of inventively thinking inside the box, for a change.


Source:  https://variety.com/2022/film/reviews/emergency-declaration-review-bi-sang-seon-eon-1235332850/


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August 7, 2022


Emergency Declaration”: A virus in the sky


By Andrew Hamlin




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With its 220-minute running time, you could fairly say that “Emergency Declaration,” the new film from South Korean writer and director Jae Rim-han, drags a bit. It lacks the biff-bang-pow dynamic central to the disaster film genre, although selected parts of it move with lighting ease.


I cut it some slack, though, for however accidentally telling the truth about disasters, about emergencies. Such situations often stop and start. They often terrorize, and then leave you in the lurch to stress over your stressing.

The action begins in South Korea’s busy Incheon Airport. Amidst the steady flow of bodies sorted onto aircraft, a young and fresh-faced man in a suit appears. He grins a little too much. He asks inappropriate questions and if questioned about the questions, grins bigger and says he’s just asking. What’s wrong with that?


The young man is Jin-seok, played by Si-wan Yim. As the action unspools, we’ll learn more about him, and why he’s trying to board a plane with no luggage, and seemingly no care about where the plane lands. Yim leads with the big smile, but eventually shows us the twisted landscape behind his visage.


Director and writer Rim-han had his script finished before the COVID-19 outbreak. But he admits his central plot gimmick of a mutant virus gone wild inside a plane, caught up with the news in a chilling fashion. He plays on the hidden anxieties many passengers feel—fear of crashes, fear of being shut up in a confined space, fear of having no place to go. And when a crisis strikes, some people rise to the occasion while others crumple.


Police detective In-ho (played by Kang-ho Song, famous in the West from his starring role in the Oscar-winning “Parasite”) looks tired from the get-go. But when he discovers his own family in peril from Jin-seok’s psychopathic scheme, he throws himself into saving their lives at any cost. His devoted selflessness contrasts with several others looking only after their own skins.


Two strong female characters emerge. In the air, Hee-jin (So-jin Kim) has to keep passengers calm, well-regulated, and prevent their ugliest impulses from destroying every life on board. On land, Sook-he (Do-yeon Jeon), a high-ranking Minister, must toil for the plane’s safety, often in the face of hostility from forces both home and abroad.


The film follows the air-disaster formula in its sprawling fashion. The charismatic villain, of course, unleashing menace. The everyday heroes, rising about their station to save lives. The compromised hero, in this case Jae-hyuk (Byung-hun Lee), traumatized from old wounds, fighting to get back to his best possible self through the current crisis.


So the movie sometimes dawdles over its set-ups. Objectively, sure, it could have been 20 or even 30 minutes shorter. But it ends up manifesting a truer picture of life in the midst of upheaval, co-mingling the stress with the dread.

And the people in charge sometimes have to make tough decisions. From the audience’s perspective, some of these decisions look heartless, sans compassion. After all, we’re made to sympathize, maybe even empathize, with the people in the plane. We want their lives saved as much as they do.


But to the people on the ground, it could look different. The authorities have to speculate on what’s happening in the sky, have to make decisions where some, even most, of the cards lie face down. Decisions affecting lives, health, and stability of people on the ground.


So enjoy the wild ride. But remember real life. And ask yourself, silently: What would I have done in their shoes?

“Emergency Declaration” opens August 12 in Seattle. Check local listings for theaters, prices, and showtimes.

Andrew can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.


 Source: https://nwasianweekly.com/2022/08/emergency-declaration-a-virus-in-the-sky/

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