The film is an ambitious, thorough and highly entertaining project ― arguably one of the best local thrillers so far this year ― created by up-and-coming director Kim Byeong-woo.
Ha, whose previous collaborations with emerging directors including Na Hong-jin’s “The Chaser” and Yoon Jong-bin’s “Nameless Gangster” brought the filmmakers into prominence, once again proved his acting caliber.
|A scene from “The Terror Live.” (Lotte Entertainment)|
The film will likely prove his commercial viability as well, once it hits the local theaters next week. On top of his performance, the disaster flick is complemented by plausible, solid CG effects and a socially conscious script that touches on the issues of power, commercialization of journalism, and the socially marginalized.
The film’s protagonist, Yoon Young-hwa (played by Ha), is a highly flawed character. The former primetime TV news anchor has been demoted, and is now the bitter host of a current affairs radio show. While on air, he gets a call from a terrorist minutes before he blows up Mapo Bridge ― the bridge that connects Mapo and Yeouido, Seoul’s main business and investment banking district, just outside his studio building.
Thinking that doing an exclusive phone interview with the terrorist on television would help him regain his former position, he purposely does not call the police. Instead, he negotiates with his boss, Cha Dae-eun (played by Lee Kyung-young) and strikes a dangerous, unethical deal with the terrorist to talk with him on the phone on TV, live.
It is apparent that both Yoon and his boss don’t really care about the victims. For Yoon, whose previous marriage to a fellow reporter ended in a bitter divorce, the attack is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rise back to the top. His boss’ main interests, on the other hand, are ratings and commercial profit.
“Use words such as ‘TERROR’ and ‘SHOCKING’ as many times as possible,” Cha advises Yoon through the teleprompter.
As the live show progresses, Yoon faces a series of unexpected and terrifying situations. The terrorist, who claims to be a 50-something construction worker who lost his coworkers in a senseless industrial accident, reveals to Yoon only that he has set a bomb in the anchor’s earphone for the show. He threatens Yoon that the bomb will explode in his ear, live on air, if he does not get what he wants: a public apology from the president for the deaths of his colleagues.
Not knowing what is in Yoon’s ear, Cha advises him not to talk about the president on air. The newsroom is a scene of chaos as the police force joins the broadcasters. All those involved ― Yoon, Cha, the police, other broadcasters and the Blue House ― exploit terrorism for their own interests. The police want to chase down the terrorist as soon as possible, while the broadcasters want the opposite to maximize its profits.
The only exception is Yoon’s ex-wife and reporter Ji-soo, who volunteers to report from the site of the terrorist attack despite the obvious dangers. Meanwhile, the president doesn’t appear at all in the film.
As the movie progresses, Yoon’s illegal deeds committed in the past are revealed. Viewers learn more about the terrorist toward the end of the film ― why he chose Yoon to be his messenger. By the end of the film, Yoon’s world view is completely shattered by the horrific experience.
Actor Ha’s performance of the character’s transformation ― a bitter, ambitious man to the disillusioned, regretting soul ― is deeply nuanced, vulnerable and well crafted.
“The Terror Live” is a well-made commercial film that thoroughly entertains the audience from the beginning to the end.
A Lotte Entertainment release, “The Terror Live” opens in local theaters on Aug. 1.
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)