By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
How much is one human life worth? The answer comes from a delicate equation that rescue workers of every ilk have to answer every day.
This one’s easy- two goat farts, and not a goat fart more.
The Tunnel wastes very little time getting Jung-soo (Ha Jung-woo) into the titular tunnel… then collapsing it around him. With two bottles of water and a birthday cake, lasting the week rescue worker Dae-kyung (Oh Dal-su) tells him it’ll take to dig him out seems daunting but doable. Little do they know, but the deadly mix of governmental incompetence and big business interests will conspire for it to take a little while longer…
Kim Seong-hun’s last film, A Hard Day, was one of the biggest breakouts out of last years Cannes Film Festival, and with The Tunnel he shows again he knows how to balance his tones like a master- from edge of your seat thrills, to tragedy & heartbreak, to uplift, and finally even a surprisingly amount of surprisingly effective comedy. He also displays plenty of polish and verve (as does DP Kim Tae-sung and his impeccable lighting), and most importantly for a film of this sort, knows how to make you dig your nails into your hands and clench your teeth from the suspense. Still, what impresses me most is his uncanny ability to make the most pitch black comedy seem like exactly the light laugh you needed to break up the tension… while still charging ahead with that ever-ramping tension.
Kim’s screenplay features quite a bit of satire, too, of the media’s latching onto disasters, of governmental and social service incompetence, of the way people lose interest once the sheen is off of a sad story and the news cycle has moved onto other tragedies. This plays like a typical disaster/rescue flick on the surface, but has some bite.
So, about that question of just how much is one life worth, in money, in time, in potentially the lives of others? Wachowski favorite Bae Doona, playing Jung-soo’s wife Se-hyun, has to weigh all of this as outside pressures, like the corporation which wants to finish blasting another tunnel nearby and the death of one of the rescue workers mount and her ability to communicate with her husband evaporates, and Bae’s acting shows us just how impossible that pressure is.
Valiant effort, Samsung battery… perhaps even a super-heroic one.
Finally, Ha Jung-woo is one of Korea’s finest actors, and affectingly shows the fortitude and creeping despair of a man in an impossible situation. Oh Dal-su, Korean Samuel L. Jackson (seriously, he must be the #1 supporting actor in Korea these days), is also great as the rescue foreman who can’t give up because he told Jung-soo not to give up.
So many questions… watching, you just can’t think about how ridiculously impossible it is to survive that long without food and water, and don’t bother questioning why he doesn’t make some survival decisions that seem like the obvious play, or it’ll drive you crazy.
Just gonna leave this here…
The Tunnel is a fingernail-clipper with a social bite to boot. Kim Seong-hun’s second winner in a row- not bad for a director who almost gave up.
The Tunnel (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for phone calls and radio messages
Take a Drink: for scatalogical concerns
Take a Drink: for government interference
Take a Drink: for government incompetence
Do a Shot: when assholes get told what’s what