Movie review of “The Tunnel”: The collapse of a mountain tunnel and its entombment of a driver lead to political discord in this part disaster movie, part satire from South Korea. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
Think we’ve got infrastructure problems in the United States?
In the gripping South Korean disaster drama “The Tunnel,” an entire mountain tunnel collapses, trapping a driver (Ha Jung-woo) under tons of rubble.
Shoddy workmanship is blamed for the accident, but finger-pointing doesn’t help salesman Lee Jung-soo, who faces indefinite burial with just a couple of bottles of water, a birthday cake intended for his young daughter, a cellphone with a dwindling battery and a flashlight.
Movie Review ★★★
‘The Tunnel,’ with Ha Jung-woo, Doona Bae, Oh Dal-su. Written and directed by Kim Seong-hoon. 127 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains some graphic language and disturbing images). In Korean, with English subtitles. Several theaters.
A mobilized government effort to free Lee, led by a no-nonsense rescue chief (Oh Dal-su), captures the nation’s attention via 24-hour media coverage. One might expect the boundaries of writer-director Kim Seong-hoon’s crisp narrative to stop there, and certainly the extraordinary footage of Lee wriggling around and through suffocating debris while the chief coaches him, via phone, on survival, is pretty compelling.
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But Kim also uses these events as a magnet for social and political satire, recalling both Billy Wilder’s 1951 “Ace in the Hole” (starring Kirk Douglas as a cynical reporter who turns a trapped man’s plight into a circus) and Costa-Gavras’ 1997 “Mad City” (with Dustin Hoffman in a similar role).
Kim draws a sharp contrast between the pure instincts and selflessness of Lee (as well as the nobility of his wife, played by Doona Bae) with an exploitative press, government officials looking for photo ops, soulless developers and other vultures controlling the message the public hears.
That’s a lot to juggle, and Kim handles it effectively while delivering, bottom line, a harrowing spectacle that makes one forget to breathe.