Running time: 111 minutes
Director: Ahn SangHoon
Suitable for: Adults
Notes: Some disturbing scenes, may not be suitable for those with delicate disposition
Released in 2011, this thriller stars Kim HaNeul (winner of the Blue Dragon Film Awards 2011: Best Actress for Blind), and “the Nation’s Little Brother” Yoo SeungHo. It’s a fast paced film which is sure to suck in anyone who watches it. The review will contain spoilers of the plot, so read at your own risk!
Review & Synopsis:
We begin the film inside a rather dingy nightclub, where a BBoy contest is taking place. Amidst the impressive dancing stunts going on, we see a young woman in a police uniform grabbing one of the dancers from backstage, and take him outside and into a car. We soon learn the woman is Min SooAh (Kim HaNeul), who’s taking her adopted brother out of the club as he sneaked out to go to the competition. As a police cadet, SooAh is overly enthusiastic about her role as a law enforcer, and handcuffs her brother to the car, so he doesn’t try to escape again. Unfortunately, this action turns out to be a disastrous one. A car crash causes the police van Min SooAh is driving to flip over, ejecting SooAh from the vehicle, with the van itself ending up teetering on the edge of bridge. SooAh’s brother calls out to SooAh, still handcuffed inside the van, and unable to escape. Using the P.O.V of SooAh, we find that her eyesight is failing, and she is unable to reach her brother, who is crying out for her. SooAh passes out on the road, while the van goes over the edge and falls to the road below. This opening scene serves to set up SooAh’s overlying guilt she feels for the rest of the film, and explains why she feels she must be so independent – her actions have caused others to be hurt, so she should be alone.
The plot jumps forward three years, and we find SooAh adapting well to her new life as a sightless person. Her guide dog, SeulGi, is her constant companion, and the way their relationship is portrayed is both touching and lovingly done. Scenes of them playing together will pull at your heart strings, and it was around this time I thought that there’s only one way things could end for this adorable canine………..(get your tissues ready before the film folks).
We see she still has an interest in becoming a member of the police force when she visits her old station. Asking for her place on the course to be reinstated, she is refused by her superiors. The refusal, which is first presumed to be about her disability, is revealed to be because of the attitude and mindset she had before the accident. Her use of the handcuffs, and leaving to find her brother when she was on duty showed that at that time, she wasn’t suitable to become a police officer. After visiting her Mother (a director at an orphanage), without SeulGi, and commiserating her refusal back into the police academy, she quickly leaves after her Mother hands her a ticket to her brother’s annual commemorative dance event. She also rejects a new ‘seeing’ device, which vibrates when objects come closer, out of guilt as she think her brother’s friends bought it for her. The close ups on this device clearly mean it’s going to be important later on, watch out for it! Meanwhile, running through the background scenes of the film thus far are news reports about a local missing girl. Obviously this will be important for later.
SooAh ignores her Mother’s offers to drive her home, and waits for hours at a bus stop in the rain, waiting for a taxi. You get a real sense of how difficult her sightless world is in this scene. With each passing car, her face lights up in hope that it is her ordered taxi, only to go back to sadness as the car goes past. Eventually, the car she’s been waiting for appears……or does it? SooAh quickly gets into what she presumes is a taxi. SooAhs’s other heightened senses soon make her realise she’s not in a normal taxi. The driver assures her she won’t have to pay luxury taxi prices after seeing she’s blind, and offers her a drink. His insistence at her having the drink begins to make her suspicious, but before he can force her to drink it, the car hits something on the road. While the driver insists to SooAh that he hit a dog, her senses tell her otherwise, and she hears the car boot slam. After a short struggle, SooAh gets away from the driver, and he makes a run for it in his car as he sees other cars slowing down at the scene of the accident.
At the police station, her assertions that the driver ran over a woman (she heard a voice) are ignored and brushed off by police. Her case is given to an unwilling detective, Detective Jo (Jo HieBong). Detective Jo’s character is reminiscent of a lot of other detectives in Korean films – seeming to be a slightly bumbling character, who turns out to be steadfast and reliable, he soon becomes a favourite of mine in the film. After SooAh proves herself to be a reliable witness by being able to Detective Jo’s general appearances using her other senses, he starts to take her seriously, and the two join forces. I really enjoyed the interaction between these two – the way that Detective Jo begins to see how well SooAh copes with everyday struggles that stem from being blind, and becomes impressed by the tricks she has picked up is great to watch.
Posters put up around the town asking if anyone saw the accident cues the arrival of Kwon KiSub (Yoo SeungHo), a seemingly cocky and brash young man. At the police station, he insists the car that ran over the woman was not a taxi, but some foreign car. It now becomes a case of what SooAh’s senses told her what happened, versus KiSub’s account. Detective Jo comes to the conclusion KiSub’s just come for the reward money, which causes KiSub to leave in disgust, still saying it was a car, not a taxi. Immediately, you can tell that KiSub’s character is being set up to be a parallel to the brother that SooAh lost previously. From what we saw of the brother’s personality, there are a lot of similarities with KiSub.
As SooAh remembers more about her time in the car, we are given an insight into who the driver was. We then see the driver, MyungJin (Yang YoungJo) in his house, in the basement, with the girl who was run over. She awakens to find herself tied to a medical table, with the body of a dead girl opposite her. The dead body belongs to the missing girl reported on the news that has been in the background of scenes throughout the film so far. MyungJin is standing beside the girl, naked. Luckily the scene cuts, but you’re left with an obvious sign of what will happen to the girl. Though this scene may not sit easily with some people, it really gives you a sense of the cold hearted ruthlessness of MyungJin. The actor Yang YoungJo portrays the villain amazingly. His calm exterior only just hides the menace behind his eyes, and you can clearly see machinations going on inside his head throughout the film.
After a discussion with Detective Jo, SooAh realises she must have been in a regular car, like KiSub said. This is where the pace of the film really gets going. All the background themes and pieces of the plot have been set up, and the action can truly start now. The pair try to ring KiSub, but he busy on the phone, bitching to his friend about how the police didn’t believe him. Unfortunately for KiSub, MyungJin does believe him, and in fact has been following him home, having seen him at the police station with SooAh. KiSub soon realises he’s being followed, and a chase breaks out in the twists and turns in the back streets of a small housing district. SooAh and Detective Jo arrive at KiSub’s home to find him being taken away in an ambulance from a head injury after a woman found him just before MyungJin finished the job. The chase scene really ups the ante in terms of tension, and you can feel that the plot is really starting to move along at this point. The dark streets in which they run through are very atmospheric, and the way that just the background sounds of the town are used, and no music, really helps to bring you into the action.
Luckily for KiSub, he has an usually thick skull (convenient), and does not need any serious treatment. Detecitve Jo doesn’t yet put two and two together that it was the driver of the car that attacked KiSub, but thinks it was probably another kid with a grudge against him. SooAh begins to become overly worried about KiSub, obviously wanting to take care of him in place of her dead brother. Shrugging off her concerns, KiSub ignores her and Detective Jo, still feeling slighted over them not believing him. Now things start to get creepy. SooAh has been receiving prank calls from unknown mobiles (which are in fact the mobiles of missing women being used by MyungJin). MyungJin feels it’s time to reveal his plans, and tells SooAh that she and the kid (KiSub) shouldn’t interfere with him. SooAh realises he must be the abductor and asks him if he’s killed before, to which he replies with only a chilling laugh. SooAh, with SeulGi in tow, returns to the hospital, begging KiSub to hear her out. KiSub, being the hot headed young lad he is, ignores her and leaves with his friends.
Down in the subway, we see KiSub with his friends, waiting to get on a train. SooAh appears on the opposite platform with SeulGi. Initially he ignores her, but notices when she gets on the train there is a man behind her. You can guess who that man is. Immediately KiSub recognises the man, and runs over to the other platform, calling SooAh. If you’re wondering how someone could call someone on the underground, the answer is South Korea is cooler than us, wifi and reception is everywhere. This sequence is amazing. The fact that SooAh is blind, and how the director uses it is wonderful in this scene. Unbeknownst to SooAh, MyungJin is in fact sitting opposite her in the tube, loving every minute of his position of power over her sightless state. Receiving the call from KiSub, SooAh learns from having her phone on a video call, that MyungJin is opposite her. KiSub guides her off the train and through the underground, essentially being her eyes. MyungJin is no slacker however, and ends up with a knife to her back. The way the underground scenes are set up are great, the contrast between what we can see and what SooAh can’t see makes for a tense and thrilling ride.
Managing to get away from MyungJin, SooAh tries to exit the tube, using KiSub as her guide. As she makes in to the elevator to the surface, MyungJin catches up to her and quickly injects her with a sedative. Just when we think he’s got the advantage, the courageous SeulKi intervenes. This gives time for the now sedated SooAh to reach the surface in the elevator, but unfortunately MyungJin takes his anger out on SeulGi. As an animal lover, this part was pretty distressing, but serves to show the cruel nature of MyungJin.
SooAh wakes up in hospital, surrounded by Detective Jo and KiSub, and soon finds out about SeulKi. While SooAh is devastated, Detective Jo now has a lead on the type of car, thanks to KiSub, and has narrowed the profession of MyungJin from the type of sedative used. With the police investigation in full swing, SooAh and KiSub are put under watch and go to stay at the orphanage that SooAh’s mother runs. With SooAh and KiSub safe (for the moment), Detective Jo investigates foreign car makes parked in doctor’s car parks. Stumbling upon the right car, MyungJin suddenly appears. Pretending to play dumb, MyungJin hands the Detective a faded I.D. Just as Detective Jo is about to ask for another I.D, MyungJin deftly slices his neck. Leaving Detective Jo to bleed to death on the car park floor, MyungJin uses the Detective’s phone to text KiSub asking where he is and if he’s safe. I really thought that Detective Jo would make it through the film, but alas, it was not meant to be for him.
SooAh’s mother takes the kids at the orphanage out to SooAh’s brother’s memorial dance event, leaving her and KiSub alone. Cue rain and lightning outside. In an intense showdown, we see how MyungJin copes in SooAh’s sightless world when she shorts the electricity in the orphanage, leaving the building in darkness. While KiSub lies unconscious after being stabbed by MyungJin, SooAh desperately tries to find KiSub before MyungJin can find her. SooAh must save KiSub, otherwise history will repeat itself, yet another brother figure will die from her lack of intervention. Will SooAh be able to overcome her own doubts and fears in order to save her new brother figure?
I loved this film. The way SooAh’s blindness was used was great – the way MyungJin could be right in front of her without her realising was thrilling. The fast pace and dialogue, coupled with the atmospheric settings will have you gripping the edge of your seat. The film’s plot is unique, and with enough twists to keep you guessing. The acting is brilliant, and you get see why Kim HaNeul won awards for her portrayal. Yang YoungJo’s acting is also superbly chilling at the sadistic villain. We can’t forget Yoo SeungHo either as the impetuous Kwon KiSub (can you tell I’m a fan yet?), who does a great job too. I would definitely recommend this to fans of fast paced thrillers, and would be happy to watch this film again any time. Also, as far as Korean films go, this is not as nearly gory as some in the same genre, so if you were hesitant after seeing other horror or thriller Korean films (like I saw the devil), give this a go.
I give this film………..
images from hancinema