Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Original Title: Jigureul jikyeora!
South Korea, 2003. CJ Entertainment, Sidus. Screenplay by Joon-Hwan Jang. Cinematography by Kyung-pyo Hong. Produced by Seoung-Jae Cha. Music by Don-jun Lee. Production Design by Geun-yeong Jang, Kyeong-hie Kim. Film Editing by Gok-ji Park. Toronto International Film Festival 2003.
Science-fiction, horror and piercing social melodrama are combined with often successful results in this gripping film. Ha-kyun Shin is excellent as an amateur UFOlogist who believes that aliens are intending to invade from the Andromeda galaxy and destroy us. Some of them are already among us, as he explains to his sweet and unassuming, tightrope-walking girlfriend, telling her that they disguise themselves as humans and need to be rooted out and destroyed. Compiling evidence that only a serious basement-dweller could come up with, he kidnaps a chemical tycoon that he believes is an alien in disguise, dragging him back to his remote lair and strapping him to a chair where he puts him through unimaginable tortures. The old man, desperate to save himself, switches between whatever tactics he can to save himself, enduring some very upsetting physical hardship while Shin won’t let his beliefs about the man’s alien substance go. Meanwhile, the victim’s kidnapping is being investigated by detectives, one of them an unconventional loner and another a young recruit to the main police force who loves the other detective’s out of the box thinking. In the great and admirable tradition of films made in this period of New Korean Cinema, the film has a surprising emotional centre once Shin’s hostage learns about his captor’s life experience, replete with sorrows, trauma and psychological degradation. In bringing in this element of the character’s backstory, director Joon-Hwan Jang suddenly has to walk a tightrope between sympathizing with the main character while still holding him responsible for his actions, something he does far better than maintaining the film’s tonal and physical plot balance. Too lengthy for its own good, this film sticks around much longer than a film that stresses you out this much should, just about every turn of the plot indulges in one or two more moves than it should and the ending is a sentimental indulgence that won’t work for all.