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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

More solid work from Korea

Author: Josh Friesen from Canada
9 October 2014

It is a really interesting time for Korean cinema. Chan-wook Park and Joon-ho Bong, South Korea's leading auteurs have successfully transitioned into the English language with Stoker and Snowpiercer, introducing a larger audience to their respective cannons. South Korean cinema is flourishing. Haemoo's success on the festival circuit and its selection as Korea's entry for the foreign language Oscar is probably due in a large part to Joon-ho Bong's credit as producer and screenwriter.

Haemoo (Sea Fog) is based on a stage play which is in turn based on a real event that occurred in 2001. Judging by the collective gasp in the VIFF screening I was in, I assume most were not aware of what event it was based on. All I will say is that the incident is shocking and traumatic; this is not a film for the squeamish.

The film centers on Captain Kang and his fishing crew. He is about to lose his boat due to lack of finances so in an act of desperation he agrees to the job of smuggling Chinese-Korean immigrants into the country. His crew is not told until they are at sea.

First time director Sung Bo Shim competently handles the film, employing a straight forward, no bullshit approach to storytelling that would make Clint Eastwood proud. The set pieces are solid, especially the ship itself, although the film would have benefited from a cinematographer who wasn't afraid to take a step back. The camera is often too close to the action and three uses of shaky-cam are three too many.

Haemoo has its flaws but it's properly paced and well told. The audience at the screening seemed to love it, simultaneously applauding loudly at the finish. I look forward to seeing what Sung Bo Shim does next, preferably with a slightly larger budget.

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20 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

There are movies you watch to forget, and movies you watch to remember. Watch Haemoo to remember.

Author: TribalWho from Canada
10 September 2014

(TIFF'14 Intro) Director Sung Bo Shim introduced the movie's afternoon screening and stuck around for Q&A session afterwards.

(Review) I consider Snowpiercer to be one of the best films to come out of 2013, and Joon-ho Bong's co-scripting duties on Haemoo was what attracted me to Haemoo. While first time director, and co-script(er) Sung Bo Shim took over directorial duties for Haemoo, it is with Snowpiercer that the film will most draw comparisons. Although they couldn't be more different in terms of scripting, plot, or even the message they aim to get across, they are both a gritty, bleak look at humanity's darker side, and in both cases, play their conflicts out in locations that mirror the messages the films are trying to get across. As Snowpiercer traces a revolution that begins in the bleak lower classes back carriages of the last remaining train on Earth, moves through the empowered, and autonomous middle class cars and ends at the apathetic, electronically numb upper classes carriages, the audience are treated to a class warfare fueled journey through the entirely of our world.

Bo Shim, here, plays his tale out on a small fishing vessel, and a desperate captain, who decides to transport human cargo when business runs slow. As in Snowpiercer, the fishing vessel, and the ocean it travels on, reflect the mental state of the crew. Clear waters and sunny oceans start their journey, dark stormy waters mark their arrival to pick up the new cargo and as the crew start breaking and coming to terms with what they've been forced to do, the Haemoo (sea fog) sets in, blinding our screens, and trapping the vessel in ethereal limbo. Bo Shim takes visual clues from Joon-ho Bong and dresses up the three areas of the ship according to their roles: the uppers decks are gray and steely, the fish hold (a very bad place) is dark and bleak, and the engine room, the only 'sanctuary' for a large part of the film, is decked in shades warm yellow and brown. The film looks stark and visceral, and everything, from the script to the acting, helps get that across.

All the sights and sounds would be a waste without a solid script to back it up, and the movie does not disappoint. Haemoo throws average, ordinary, salt of the earth people into desperate situations that shatter, twist and test them. The movie's first act traces the lives of these fishermen, on and off land, and shows them going about their lives. The writing in these parts is so authentic that it's hard not to view them as real people, with real, crappy jobs by the time they head back off to sea. It is through these unremarkable and slow sequences (a charming little love story on the boat takes the better part of the first hour) that the script manages to put us at ease and catch us off guard when the s**t hits the fan. And it does hit the fan. I won't spoil anything for you, and while there's hardly any on screen violence, Haemoo was more effective as a horror movie than last night's screening of Rec 4. The final act culminates in one of the most haunting sequences you will see this year on the big screen, and ends with a perfect ending: unapologetic, chaotic, confusing, without closure. Real.

Before the film began, one of the film's protagonists (also in attendance) said she hoped that the movie will stay with the audience long after it's over. I find it hard to imagine anyone walking away from this film unscathed. How could ordinary people do these acts? Was there something dark inside them all along? Perhaps the things they were forced to do shattered their minds? Perhaps there something dark and twisted in everyone? These are questions I should stop asking myself, but I can't. Haemoo is a masterpiece, and excels in getting under your skin and affecting you on a very primal level. This is a movie you need to watch, and with an excellent score to boot, one you should want to.

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Well that was incredible

Author: Kane Le-Petit from England
2 May 2015

This film BLEW all my expectations out of the water , I knew nothing about it going in and enjoyed every single second of this incredible piece of Korean Cinema.

The intensity and tone of the film is one of the best things I can say about it , you could cut the tension with a knife and my hands were sweating the whole time ! The score and editing was impeccable , particularly the score being reminiscent of huge blockbusters (all though this is a lot more adult and brutal than an American blockbuster as usual with Korean Cinema). The cinematography was absolutely incredible , considering this took place on a boat , there was practically no shaky cam throughout the entire thing and instead the viewers are treated to some gorgeous visuals and beautiful smooth and steady shots. Only negative thing I have to say about Haemoo is the fact that a few times , it felt a little bit cliché with its character moments and plot decisions (very rarely) .

I could not believe my eyes when I saw the ratings online , they deserve to be much , MUCH higher.

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Sometimes Shocking, Sometimes Beautiful, Haemoo is a Rare Film that Deserves Viewing

Author: Derek Childs (totalovrdose) from Melbourne, Victoria
5 January 2016

Haemoo is one of those few films, where to reveal too much while discussing it, would completely ruin the intensity of the story. If you're anything like me, you'll go into the film assuming it will be similar to 'A Perfect Storm', and you will instead find yourself in the middle of something else entirely. Kang (Kim Yun-Seok) is not only a man at the end of his tether, but the captain of fishing vessel Jeonjiho, a bucket of bolts and disrepair, in need of immediate overhaul. The owner, who he reports to, wishes to sell the vessel, though Kang's bond with his ship, which is stronger than any he has with the people in his life, leaves him desperately trying to keep that which has been in his family for generations. Unable to afford the hefty price of buying the vessel, he agrees to illegally transport Chinese-Korean stowaways, from a prearranged location at sea, to the mainland.

Dong-Sik (Park Yoo-Chun), the youngest and newest member of the Jeonjiho, is one of only a couple crew members who initially expresses issue with this plan, though the lacking quantity of fish, and the need for money, causes everyone to unanimously agree. When moving the illegal immigrants onto the vessel, the beautiful Hong-Mae (Han Ye-Ri), falls into the ocean, Dong-Sik jumping in to save her, thus beginning a strong bond that ties them together.

The inexperience the Jeonjiho crew have in transporting stowaways, alongside the lustful attraction several of the men have towards a number of the women, results in the build up of tension, as several crew members try to take advantage of the situation. Despite the dangerous conditions, and the threat of being boarded by security, Haemoo explores how sometimes, the greatest threat when you're out at sea, are the people around you.

Themes concerning love, friendship, trust, greed and fear are interwoven into the plot, the tension slowly escalating with such precise execution, that viewers will literally find themselves inches from the screen, hanging onto every action. Though there are occasional sex scenes, and moments of violence, the film is neither bloodthirsty, nor extreme in their depiction, these instead being used to heighten the story-line.

The acting is especially convincing, and it is the talents of the crew that especially increases the level of panic, fear and dread that grips the film. Despite characterization being only in short supply, the emotional depth and poignancy surrounding the leads engages us, especially as the film begins to traverse into darker territory.

A very dark, sophisticated and powerful dramatic thriller, Haemoo shows humanity at its best and worst, and though the theme of hope is continually in a state of flux, I certainly hope you watch this film; if not for any other reason, then for the wide variety of emotions Haemoo is guaranteed to offer.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Absolutely Incredible - Go In Blind!

Author: TheFilmGuy1 from Canada
10 September 2015

Holy hell, Haemoo (or Sea Fog) knocks it out of the park. South Korea proves that it still has the ability to pump out some absolute gems.

I'm not gonna say much about this except that it's about a crew of South Korean fishermen who take on a group of illegal Chinese immigrants on their boat. The film makes you think that it's going to be one way, and it does something completely different. That's all I will say because anything more will spoil the incredible surprise I experienced. If that core concept sounds interesting, see this film. Try to avoid other peoples comments and reviews, as they may not be as into the film as I am and find nothing wrong in spoiling things. Also, it's apparently based on real events, and I recommend you not look that up either, as it will obviously spoil it.

Kim Yun-seok gives an incredible performance here. He really steals the show, but that's not to take away from the great performances that the rest of the cast gives. It's just that he is so great at portraying the character and the changes he goes through that he will blow you away.

This film is so damn good. It really surprised me, and I would put it up there with all the rest of the must watch South Korean films. If it sounds interesting, or you like South Korean movies, check this out immediately.

(Side note, that damn ending was so good.)

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7 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Kudos to Korean Movie People

Author: BasicLogic from United States
2 June 2015

This film is another living proof to show the world how Korean movies could be so unique and so creative. If you turn your eyes to the recent Chinese movies, including those from Taiwan and Hong Kong, you might immediately be able to tell the day and night differences and how superior and transcendent are the Korean movies, their screenplay writers, their directors and their actors are just so superior to other Asian movie industries. Japanese movies used to be good, but after their anime crap dominated over everything, their movie industries just suffered a nose dive, most of their great movies were produced between 1930 to 1070, after that golden era, Japanese movies simply lost almost everything worth mentioning.

"Sea Fog" is another memorable Korean masterpiece. Those familiar actors were doing great in this bone-chilling film. A fishing boat, fishing bad luck, down and out captain, crew and those smuggling illegals, accident (a so appropriate American slang: "Shit happens"); so unpredictable and so unavoidable....

Then, there's one thing also proved that we are too human, too subconsciously trying to hide from the atrocity and tragedy by using sudden unexplainable sex to get a cathartic escape. I do understand that under some weird, dangerous, suffocating occasions, when the tension is too high to bear, if there is an opposite gender facing the same situation with you, both you and her or him, just might use love making as a safe harbor to escape the atrocious storm and to release the pressure right afterward. But still, when that moment happened in this film, I still couldn't help shaking my head and murmuring: "WTF!??", then suddenly I realized that episode was quite possible.

If you like this movie, please don't forget to check out another great Korean movie, "The Yellow Sea", that's another bone-chilling film that only the great Korean movie people could have achieved.

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