Korean wave—the worldwide spread of South Korea’s culture, entertainment, music, TV dramas and movies, is inevitable on this day. A cornucopia of K Pop Music and K Dramas has become a daily presence in modern society and pop culture.
From big-money blockbusters with stunning CGI, such as The Host and Along with the Gods, to flicks with an outstandingly twisted plot, Old Boy and Parasite, everyone can find something in Korean films that staggers the audience. Also remarkable is its genre-twisting ability. Even in gritty horror dab Train to Busan, you can find a social commentary about South Korea’s different classes.
EXIT is another blockbuster with a balanced mix of thriller and comedy. It was first screened on 31st July and had dominated the South Korean box office for almost a month. The protagonist Yong-Nam is an unemployed man in his twenties, living in his parents’ house. Although, he was one of the top mountain climbers in high school but ironically has no luck ‘climbing’ up any professional ladder. He was a textbook loser whose own nephew was ashamed to talk to.
With his relatives looking down on him and being stuck in the ‘friend zone’ with his high-school crush, Yong-Nam is one of the biggest underdogs you’ll come across in cinematic history.
Nevertheless, every dog has its day, right? Yong-Nam’s day has come on his mom’s 70th birthday that he has arranged the ceremony at the place where his crush Eui-Ju works. On the same night, a messed-up scientist, who has lost his patent rights after being fired from the company he co-founded, releases a poisonous gas that kills anyone that comes to interact with in the middle of the capital, Seoul.
The gas spreads fast, thinner than air. One scene shows a band of teenagers naively taking a groupfie in front of the approaching gas – satirically portraying people’s need to share every moment of their lives even amid the mayhem.
The city is on fire, a stray canister breaks into the convention hall where the Yong-Nam family is. They quickly learn the situation outside and decide to stay in the hall after a sister of Yong-Nam inhaled the gas accidentally. Now they are all trapped inside the convention building with no exit.
When they realise the door to the rooftop is locked and the keys are missing, Yong-Nam has to use his rock-climbing abilities and wits to reach the rooftop to get the attention of helicopter rescue teams.
When I think about “trapped-inside”, the first one that comes to my mind is Stephen King’s The Mist from 2007. It tells about a group of people from different backgrounds locked inside a supermarket when the outside world is terrorised by strange monsters that come out of a mysterious mist. EXIT is not on the King-level thriller but you will be on tenterhooks as you watch the protagonists climb the building and jump from the roof to another. There are also funny moments to lighten your mood.
Showing at JCGV from Aug 29.
Language: Korean (English subtitled)