Korean Film Review – The Flu

In present-day Hong Kong, a container full of illegal immigrants is about to be shipped to Korea. One of the passengers is sick but assures his handler he is well enough to continue with the journey. Once the container arrives in Bundang, the traffickers discover that all but one of the passengers are dead. He escapes, but the traffickers have bigger things to worry about, as they suddenly become sick themselves. It’s not long before the virus spreads and thousands of people are infected.

In-hae (Soo Ae), a doctor at a local hospital, ends up in one of the city’s many camps for the sick along with firefighter Ji-gu (Jang Hyeok). As the situation gets worse and the government’s solution to dealing with the infected becomes more and more extreme, In-hae takes it upon herself to find a cure for the virus so she can save her daughter, and potentially the rest of the country.

With close-ups of people sneezing and slow motion shots of spit flying into mouths, the film reminded me of a public service announcement I saw as a child declaring “coughs and sneezes spread diseases.” A little dramatic, perhaps, but I don’t doubt for a second that the situation presented in “The Flu” (2013) could really happen. How many times have you shared a bowl of kimchi jjigae in a restaurant with several friends? Or even worse, how many times has a random person coughed into your face on the Seoul subway? Forget Kim Jong-un’s nukes — all he would need to do if he really wanted to take over the South would be to send in a double agent with a cold during flu season.

“The Flu” does have its moments, particularly in the way the infected try to force politicians’ hands into giving them the help they need. But the film is overacted and uses unnecessary comedy in the early stages, meaning the transition from slapstick comedy to serious drama never really feels believable. A decent effort, but not in the same league as films like Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects” (2013) or even the first segment of Korea’s own “Doomsday Book” (2012).

Categories: Reviews

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