The captain of a South Korean fishing trawler is offered his biggest payday yet. All he has to do is pick up a bunch of Chinese refugees off the mainland of China and bring them to South Korea. He takes the job and initially everything goes well. However, the plans are thrown into disarray when tragedy strikes.Written by
Yoon-Seok Kim was first cast in the role of the ship's captain in June 2013. Joong-Ki Song was originally offered to star opposite Kim, but had to turn down the role when he received his enlistment papers for mandatory military service. K-pop singer and actor Yoo-chun Park was cast instead in August 2013, in his big screen debut. See more »
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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