It doesn’t seem long ago when Korean film makers were dazzling the world with prizewinners at International festivals such as Oldboy and Pieta. As well as these harsh ,violent films there were gentle odes to Buddhism (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring) and the magnificent Untold Scandal, which set the story of Dangerous Liaisons in the Joseon Dynasty period.
South Korea has one of the strongest national film industries of any country, but they haven’t had an international hit for several years. Many of its most acclaimed directors have either gone of the rails (kim Ki Duk) or made films for America (Park Chan Wook and Joon-ho Bong.
I watched Tunnel at Wimbledon cinema (shown there because of the large Korean community in New Malden). Although it was a perfectly decently-made film I wondered why it was so unusually bland. If it wasn’t for the frequent jabs at the Korean government, or references to recent safety disasters such as the Sewol Ferry sinking, this could have been a Hollywood blockbuster.
Driving to work one morning, car salesmen (Jung-soo) finds himself spending longer than he would to like at a gas station when an old man mishears him and puts to much petrol in his car. On they way, he calls his wife Se-hyun and tells her he has bought a cake for his daughter’s birthday (why is it always the kid’s birthday in these films?) Then, as he enters the tunnel, he is caught in the middle somewhere when a rockslide causes the tunnel to collapse.
Luckily, he can still make communication with the outside world because his film has 82% battery; and even 150 metres underground he always has a perfect mobile phone reception. Calls are made between him and wife Seohyun, as well as the head of the rescue operation Dae-kyoung (O-dal su).
I’m not sure why anyone would want to make a film about a man stuck in a tunnel. The possibility of doing anything new with it are so small. There’s little in the way of tension. Although film tries to show the lack of water and how he must carefully ration it to be drunk each hour. The film only really becomes exciting when he learns that the tunnel is to be re-built after the chances of finding him alive are considered to low. Then he has to race against time to find his way out), although why he didn’t think of this before I have no idea.
Bae Doona has little to do in this film and we don’t learn anything about their relationship beside the fact that they have a four-year old daughter. The film contains some humour (usually towards the incompetence of the tunnel builders who couldn’t remember how many ceiling fans they had put in) and there’s even a cute dog who has somehow survived under the fallen rubble.
It looks like this film is one for Koreans only.