Declaration of emergency2022.
Written and directed by Jae-rim Han.
With Song Kang-ho, Lee Byung-hun, Jeon Do-yeon, Kim Nam-gil, Yim Si-wan, Kim So-jin, Park Hae-jun, Seol In-a, Kim Bo-min, Moon Sook, Maurice Turner Jr. and Im Sung-jae.
While investigating a terrorist threat that has gone viral online, Korean authorities discover that a suspect has recently boarded an international flight to the United States. When a healthy passenger on the same flight suddenly dies a gruesome death of unknown cause, panic erupts both in flight and on the ground. With fuel steadily running low and international refusals to offer help, the captain and crew will be forced to take unprecedented emergency action to try to save the lives of their passengers.
An opening title card informs viewers that an “emergency declaration” issued means something has gone so badly that the pilot has free rein to land a plane as soon as possible. The only thing that matters in the sky is to land this plane safely, even if it disrupts the routes of other planes. Amazingly, such a statement isn’t made here for nearly 100 minutes into this bloated, over-the-top mess (it’s a disaster movie in more ways than one) despite a terrorist unleashing a deadly virus that has already killed several people. Usually there’s some excitement whenever a character references the title of a movie, but in Declaration of emergencyit’s laughable.
It’s doubly frustrating that the movie completely falls apart since its opening act is suspenseful and plot-building. At an airport, Jin-seok (Si-wan Yim) walks into the bathroom, cuts off his arm, and hides a deadly virus that he’s all set to release on a flight, intending to kill everything. the world, including himself.
While it’s worth appreciating that writer/director Jae-rim Han didn’t go with a generic bombshell play, it’s troubling that while we’re still living through a global health crisis, the source of domestic terrorism here comes from a killer virus that spreads rapidly in confined spaces and resembles what we still currently face in reality. One also has to wonder if the film will provide insights for real-world sufferers, but to judge the film as a work of art and ignore those connections is a terrifying concept.
However, the script fumbles with the few good ideas it has. When viewers are introduced to Jin-seok, he doesn’t have a plane ticket yet. No kidding, he stands in line to buy a ticket but asks the receptionist all kinds of questions about which plane has the most passengers on board and what the popular vacation spot is. Also, in the same bathroom mentioned above, he comes across a man and his daughter (the little girl went to the men’s bathroom because the other line was too long), keeps asking questions awkward and uncomfortable, then begins to whisper to the child that everyone is going to die. Somehow, this all gets swept away and the three of them board the same plane for Honolulu.
There are other moving parts here, like Sergeant In-ho (Parasite‘s Song Kang-ho) is made aware of an online video directing a public threat against one of the planes. Oddly, he only seems to care about the situation, not only because lives could be in danger, but because his wife is leaving that day and going on vacation (In-ho is always too busy with work to chase).
As the detective work runs its course (one of the film’s most ingrained aspects), there’s an awkward sense that in addition to raising the stakes for an important character in a clichéd way, the narrative wants also that viewers care about critical individuals. rather than all the lives on the plane. As a result, there’s something off-putting about the narration, especially since it doesn’t seem overly concerned with people dying on the plane due to the virus.
The above is made more apparent as the aforementioned man and girl become pivotal to the story. Jae-hyuk (I saw the devil‘s Lee Byung-hun) fears flying due to a tragic incident that happened when he was a pilot. His daughter Sook-hee (Jeon Do-yeon) suffers from eczema (they think a change of environment might help) and has become somewhat estranged after her father’s divorce. Then things get complicated with Jae-hyuk revealed to have a glorious past with the only remaining pilot.
There are way too many subplots vying for attention in Declaration of emergency, eventually reaching the point where it’s less about the virus and more of an aerial disaster/thriller film. It piles plot twists upon plot twists, bringing everything from corrupt pharmaceutical companies to terrorist associates to a series of insulting and sentimental events involving a vaccine.
The set does its best with the material and the sets are skillfully designed. Yet the logic of the narrative is practically in freefall from the start, making the whole experience more boring and confusing and, ultimately, unintentionally hilarious than entertaining.
Scintillating Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the editor of Flickering Myth Reviews. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com