★★★★½ - STUFF
- Korea's own Argo an entertaining, tension-filled thriller -
It’s Korea’s answer to Argo. A tension-filled thriller, propulsive action movie and character-filled drama based on a real-life incident.
Somehow it failed to make the final cut for this year’s Best International Feature at the Oscars, but do yourself a favour and check out this thoroughly entertaining rollercoaster ride.
As the title suggests, the backdrop for director and co-writer’s Ryu Seung-wan’s (The Battleship Island) absorbing tale is the Somalian capital. Before it became the epicentre of the fight for control of the country in the early 1990s, it was also the site of a diplomatic war. Eager to gain admission to the United Nations, both North and South Korea had set up embassies with a view to wooing support from the Somalian government.
South Korean Intelligence officer Dae-jin (Jo In-Sung) has arrived in Mogadishu with the express task of delivering gifts, including footage of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, to President Barre. However, his plans are thwarted by a rebel attack on their convoy which, despite some Herculean efforts, results in South Korean officials being 15 minutes late for their meeting.
To make matters worse, they spy the North Korean ambassador leaving the conference room.
While mulling their next move, Dae-jin reveals to South Korean ambassador Han Sin-seong (Kim Yoon-seok) that he has obtained photos of their northern rivals selling guns to Somalia’s rebel fighters. But, before they can use that to their advantage, they and the rest of the embassy find that the war has come to their door.
Told to denounce the current government, or be treated as a hostile enemy by the rebels, both they and the North Koreans begin to make separate plans to evacuate, but with banks and travel agencies closed, no electricity cutting communications with their homelands and tensions and fear rising all around them, a bold, dangerous and potentially unconscionable solution may be required.
Frenetic, occasionally frightening and surprisingly funny, Escape From Mogadishu takes plenty of narrative twists and turns before serving up one of the finest car chases in recent years, as our “heroes” attempt to scramble to safety. The car “bulletproofing” has to be seen to be believed, while there are at least two standoffs to rival the best westerns have had to offer.
Filmed in Morocco, this is a very different depiction of early ‘90s Somalia to Sir Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, evoking a less glossy, more gritty, but no less dangerous situation.
At its heart, Escape is also an uplifting tale of what can be achieved when two supposedly intractable rivals work together for a common goal and how personalities can trump politics.
In the end, this exciting and entertaining true-life adventure offers yet more proof that Korea is producing some of the most absorbing cinematic and televisual storytelling in the world today.
- James Croot, STUFF
Escape From Mogadishu is now playing at Light House Cinema!
In Korean with English subtitles