Following the success of zombie apocalypse that was Train to Busan, a friend recommended that I watch The Flu, another South Korean disaster movie released in 2013. Its a whole different horror that The Flu brings and I must say that Koreans can hold their own in delivering disaster movies. At the end of it, I would definitely not think twice about recommending this movie to my own friends (and readers).
The South Korean city of Bundang is plagued by a mutated H5N1 virus when a container truck bearing sick illegal aliens from Vietnam is smuggled into Korea. The problem is, the strain is far more fatal and communicable than the normal virus, rendering all citizens prone to the disease. When the government is forced to shut down the city with the absence of a vaccine, citizens are ushered into camps where the virus threatens to spread even further at a far more alarming rate. Amid all this is rescue worker Kang Ji-goo (Jang Hyuk), epidemiologist Kim In Hae (Soo Hae) who, along with trying to help people, share the goal of saving In Hae’s daughter Mi-reu (Park Min-Ha) who contracted the disease when she unwittingly came into contact with the first carrier.
The Flu, I think, can be compared to the best disaster movies I’ve seen. Sure, its small scale in terms of location since it only covers a city with a half a million population, but because of the area’s proximity to the the capital city of Seoul, the sense of urgency automatically magnifies ten-fold.
Aside from this, the virus also spreads at an alarming rate, and serves up fatalities in the short span of 36 hours, making the mission to find a cure all the more imperative. I liked how this movie told its stories in layers and merged them together to build on the tension that the film managed to sustain throughout its two hour run.
The film managed to give focus to the budding love story of Ji-goo and In-Hae as well as established how their experience and common concern for Mi-reu strengthened their relationship. There was also the friendship aspect between Ji-goo and fellow rescue worker Hae-jin, Ji-goo and Mi-rae as well as Mi-rae and Patient 1. The film also established the political angle of the story and laid out the difficult task of the country’s leaders to balance their concern for the welfare of the citizens and its role in preventing a global outbreak.
Hats off to the Cha-In Pyo who portrayed the role of the president as well as Boris Stout who played OSA rep Snider, as their standoff towards the end was truly intense.
I also liked how the film established the political and medical conflict of the film with the early introduction of Congressman Choi during a medical briefing, and built on it as more politicians and diplomats started to get involved in the crisis.
While I didn’t think that the CGI for this disaster film was the best (at times it made the scenes look comical), I did appreciate director Kim Sung-Su’s handling of the mob scenes because they clearly depicted chaos, mayhem and pandemonium both at the camp and on the way to storm Seoul.
Even the secondary characters and the extras in the scenes pulled their own weight and delivered effective performances as desperate citizens who felt forsaken by the government. This, intersped with scenes that contribute to the main story, managed to effectively shine the spotlight on the main characters, as well deliver the emotional impact that a calamity of this magnitude commands.
The MVPs of this movie for me was Ji-goo, who was able to come across as a modern day hero who didn’t oversell his kindheartedness for brownie points, Mi-rae whose innocence amid the chaos gave the movie that sense of humanity that at times got lost amid the blatant inhumanity in the treatment of the patients, and the President, who stood his ground and prioritized the welfare of his people above the country’s international standing.
All in all, The Flu was a pretty solid disaster movie that served up the tension in spades. If you saw this film and had your heart pounding the whole time, that would be completely normal. Welcome to the club.