Friday, December 29, 2017

Film Review: Tunnel (2016)

Tunnel (Review)
South Korea/2016
Format Viewed for Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"It has a few slow moments and it is undoubtedly derivative, but it is also suspenseful, sentimental, and entertaining."

On his way home, Lee Jung-soo (Ha Jung-woo) becomes trapped after the tunnel he's driving through collapses.

Tunnel is a survival/disaster movie. Although this film comes from South Korea, Tunnel plays out much like an American disaster movie—at a smaller scale, at least. The plot follows Lee Sung-soo, a car salesman who's driving home on his daughter's birthday. The plot doesn't take much time to get started. Within the first 15 minutes, the main characters are introduced, the tunnel collapses, and the rescue operation begins. Although the characters aren't very deep, you get enough to care about them. While Jung-soo attempts to survive under the debris, a rescue team, led by Dae-kyung (Oh Dal-su), attempts to save him and his wife, Se-hyun (Bae Doo-na) offers as much support as possible. It leads to a strong climax and a good ending.

Tunnel is a great film. It is a cliché film, you can easily predict most of the scenes, but it is still a great experience. At moments, it truly moved me through its powerful drama and effective performances. During others, I was clenching my fists and curling my toes as the tension rose to unbearable heights. And, there was even a bit of quirky humor to lighten the mood every now and then. I laughed more than I did during some full comedies this year—and I say that a lot about Korean movies that aren't comedies, I know. So, although it is a very familiar experience, especially for someone who isn't new to the genre, I repeat: it is still a great experience. Aside from its clichés, the only other issue I can think of is its often inconsistent pace. It slowed down and dragged a bit before the third act. I think the film could have been cut down 10-15 minutes while remaining equally effective—if not more.

Ha Jung-woo is a stellar leading man. He rarely overacts, always delivering the perfect amount of emotion to stay perpetually genuine. Oh Dal-su, who often plays supporting characters, was also impressive. Bae Doo-na was fantastic. She should have won Best Supporting Actress at the 37th Blue Dragon Film Awards. (I'm actually shocked Park So-dam won for her performance in The Priests over Doo-na.) The film was beautifully shot and the music was great. The special effects, although not heavily used, were also spectacular. I'm happy to see higher quality effects in Asian films. The film was written and directed by Kim Seong-hun. Kim, who also directed A Hard Day, proves that he's a master of suspense and thrills with this film. Although the writing is cliché, his direction is superb.

Overall, Tunnel is a very good disaster/survival movie. It has a few slow moments and it is undoubtedly derivative, but it is also suspenseful, sentimental, and entertaining. The performances are also top-notch. If you've watched too many disaster films recently, take a break, then watch this in a few weeks. If you're not drained by the genre, don't miss Tunnel.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some blood.

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