‘Tunnel’ Sports Realism and Organic Responses to an Epic Disaster (Review)
Directed by: Seong-hun Kim
Cast: Doona Bae, Jung-woo Ha, Sang-hee Lee, Dal-su Oh
I’m a fan of disaster films, but I admit it can be a real pain in the neck to find one that sports any semblance of realism. Seong-hun Kim’s new one, Tunnel, is that rare piece that does indeed boast a believable conflict and organic responses. Don’t get me wrong, the film definitely has a few unrealistic moments, but those moments don’t arrive in the major disaster scenes, or even from the perspective of those trapped in a collapsed tunnel, but more so from the rescue crew and their handling of the situation. I can deal with that, and I can find a whole hell of a lot to praise in Kim’s picture.
There isn’t much of a plot here, as there rarely seems to be with movies of this nature, but that’s alright. We meet the very likable Jung-soo Lee just moments before he enters a tunnel that comes tumbling down and trapping him for a stretch that surpasses a full month. Topside rescue crews are working, with little success, to free the man. What we essentially end up with is a race against time and a battle for survival. It isn’t too deep, but it is entertaining.
Jung-woo Ha’s depiction of the trapped Lee is fantastic. It’s easy to believe in his fears, but it’s even easier to buy into his mounting frustration. The cards are stacked against him, but he’s not a quitter, and he’s not about to roll over while he’s got a family up on the surface praying for his safe rescue. Dal-su Oh (who surfaced in the disturbing Oldboy) also shines as the borderline incompetent leader of the rescue team. He endures a world of difficulty in saving poor Mr. Lee, and his own frustration mirrors Lee’s quite wonderfully. Oh also provides some perfectly timed comedic relief, delivered in measured doses so as not to alter the overall tone of the picture. These two, though they share very little time together onscreen, are absolutely stellar. It’s nearly impossible to do anything but love these characters and the colorful gents who dump a ton of passionate into their cinematic efforts.
Tunnel looks good, sounds good, and moves at a surprisingly smooth pace for a flick that basically takes place in two limited locations. The editing is generally impressive and the movie does manage to capture a large scope vibe, despite the fact everything is really rather minimal. This is one of those surprises that doesn’t have a lot of promotion or buzz surrounding it, but it deserves it. 2017 has already given us some phenomenal features, and while this one may end up flying under the radar, it joins the ranks of the better pictures already released this year.
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