Emergency Declaration Review – a South Korean thriller about the doomed passengers of an infected airliner


Passengers and crew on a flight from Incheon to Honolulu are under biological attack. An unknown virus quickly spreads throughout the cabin and takes the infected to the next world. An urgent government commission led by the Minister of Transport is trying to figure out a way to evacuate people from an air trap, but not a single airport wants to accept the ship. Every minute the condition of the people on board is deteriorating, and fuel supplies are running out. The situation becomes an emergency, and the doomed passengers can only hope for a miracle.

Seo-jin Kim as Kim in a still from Emergency Declaration

The disaster film “The Emergency” skillfully mixes different genres: the tension of the thriller is accompanied by the intrigue of the detective and is enhanced by the sentimentality of the drama. From the first frames, it becomes clear that the reason for the spread of the biological threat will be that strange young man who is suspiciously interested in the airport employee on which flight the most tickets have been sold. A little later, it turns out that the psychopathic terrorist has a specific goal: to spray a deadly virus on board the aircraft “simply because it’s fun.”

While the passengers of the liner are blissful in their ignorance, a detective story typical of genre South Korean cinema unfolds on earth. Even before boarding the ill-fated flight, the Incheon Police Station receives a tip about a suspected terrorist attack. During the investigation, it turns out that microbiologist Ryu Jin-seok (Im Shi-wan), fired from a large pharmaceutical company, is behind the biological attack, carefully posting a video message with an insidious plan to kill innocent passengers on the Web. From this moment on, not just a classic detective story unfolds, but also a real drama, because on board the doomed plane, the fussy policeman Ku In-ho (Song Kang-ho) has his beloved wife.

Song Kang-ho as Koo In-ho in a still from ” Emergency Declaration

Among the people on the ship, special attention is paid to single father Park Jae-hyuk (Lee Byung-hun), who is taking his little daughter Soo-min to Hawaii. Among the passengers, among others, one can note a group of frightened schoolgirls and a uniform egoist who puts his own safety above the salvation of others. In other words, a standard set of characters for traveling along the route of any similar film. Heroes with similar characters met in the closest relative of the picture – the South Korean hit “Train to Busan”, except that not a single pregnant lady was seen on board the airliner. The homages to the popular zombie horror don’t end there. For example, the scene preceding the outbreak of the virus in The Situation strongly resembles the footage of Busan – in it, the girl also tries to get into the restroom, but one of the passengers is ahead of her. Some similarities can be seen in the episode with the aforementioned selfish man, ruthlessly pushing people with symptoms of infection to the back of the salon for the benefit of the “safe zone”.

Seo-jin Kim as Kim in a still from Emergency Declaration

In The Emergency, the dead don’t return, so the already tense conditions for survival don’t turn into a bloodbath with flesh-eaters. Moreover, such a movie was already filmed by the Americans fifteen years ago. The idea of ​​a zombie virus on board an airplane was embodied in the horror film The Doomed Flight. This film, in turn, became a kind of parody of the Snake Flight action movie released a year earlier, in which aggressive vipers terrorized a flight from Honolulu.

Unexpected plot parallels to Emergency can also be drawn from Jim Abrahams and the Zucker Brothers’ Airplane, and some visual cues are distinctly reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

Of course, a hermetic thriller with a possible fatal outcome is already a broken record. Nevertheless, the authors of The Emergency managed to create a decent alternative to numerous disaster films. In the detective thriller genre, Koreans have no equal, which is why even such a hackneyed topic with an emergency on an airplane is of genuine interest.

Seo-jin Kim as Kim in a still from Emergency Declaration

This picture is remarkable primarily for its stellar cast. The police detective was played by the main character of the Oscar-winning “Parasite” Song Kang-ho. The role of a single father went to a frequent guest of American action films and the central character of the bloody thriller “I Saw the Devil” Lee Byung-hun. The character of the microbiologist-terrorist was portrayed by K-Pop group ZE:A, who is also the actor of the TV series Strangers from Hell, Im Si-wan.

Throughout the film, director Han Jae-rim skillfully escalates the situation, and closer to the finale, he gives the audience real emotional slides. At one moment, what is happening on the screen blocks the viewer’s oxygen, and a symphony of sighs and sobs sweeps through the hall. The film should have ended on this, it would have turned out much more powerful. However, instead, the director continues to waste the film for another fifteen minutes of running time, during which the situation changes dramatically in favor of the passengers, but not a strong ending. For a banal plot and a subjectively weak ending, I want to take away a few points, but in general, “Emergency” proved to be quite worthy.

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