Melodrama and national security concerns waltz hand in hand in Tunnel, the summer’s latest big-budget offering to invade the high summer season in Korea. A carefully pitched disaster film that juggles a one-man survival show with larger issues stemming from the recent Sewol Ferry disaster, it delivers the goods without pandering to its large intended audience.
Following a similar role in the chamber piece blockbuster thriller The Terror Live in 2013, local star Ha Jung-woo plays a car dealer who becomes trapped in a caved-in tunnel on his way back home to his wife and child. A keen attention to detail from A Hard Day director Kim Seong-hun allows us to share in the protagonist’s claustrophobia during his confinement, which comes to life through strong production design, precise sound work and convincing digital effects.
Yet the film’s strongest elements happen outside the tunnel, both from the comedy gleaned from the absurd situations that arise in the rescue operation and an enormously effective performance from co-star Doona Bae as the trapped man’s wife. A thin-skinned politician bearing a deliberate resemblance to the country’s embattled president is cautiously lampooned while Oh Dal-su, playing the leader of the hampered rescue operation, gives voice to the recent exasperation felt by the Korean populace. In between stints in Hollywood productions, Bae provides a wrenching turn which is all the more impressive given her limited screen time and infrequent interactions with other characters.
By Pierce Conran (Producer at 2Mr Films, film critic)