Haeundae Review

fullsizephoto90779I’ve been watching Korean movies since about 2000. While I don’t consider myself to be a particularly talented reviewer, I do know what I like.

Haeundae is a good movie, not the big budget disaster movie that most of the press talk about, but a movie about relationships and how people change when faced with death.

The story is about three pairs of people.

Man-sik/Yeon-hee
Kim Hwi/Yoo-jin
Hyeong-sik/Hee-mi

Man-sik and Yeon-hee are connected through Yeon-hee’s father who died while he and Man-sik were deep sea fishing. They have been connected since then and while both share feelings for one another, neither is able to act on them.

Kim Hwi is a geologist who is warning about the possibility of a tidal wave through underground earthquakes, but is largely ignored by his superiors. Yoo-jin is Kim Hwi’s ex-wife who has returned to Hawundae to work PR for an event the local government.

Hyeong-sik is Man-sik’s brother and lifeguard who saves Hee-mi from drowning, but in the process elbowed her in the face. She spends the rest of the movie hounding him while he is working.

Throughout the film, each pair is focused on and the relationships between the three pairs is developed and explained. Obviously, Hyeong-Sik’s and Hee-mi’s is the lightest of the three and in some ways the three pairs are insights on the three levels of relations between couples.

Haeundae progresses at a leisurely pace and doesn’t feel overly emotional about subjects. The actors all show the stages that each person is at and the tidal wave is actually a chance for people to look inside themselves and realize what was important, right before the possibility of death.

This is what I think is actually the focus of the movie. The actual disaster isn’t until the end of the second act of the film, so most of the movie is spent living with the characters and how their lives were. When the tidal wave hits, then the movie turns and becomes about the swift changes people go through and how the face of death effects them.

One of the things I really enjoy about Korean and Japanese films is the lack of focus on how CGI effect are in movies. In many cases, they are almost laughable compared to other country’s, especially the United States. But with Haeundae, the tidal wave is convincing enough and the physical effects that are shown post huge wave are effective.

Another focus was on Ha Ji-won’s learned Busan accent, which I’m told is very difficult to mimic. Since I’m not a native speaker, I can’t say that she was bad or good, but in all the movies I’ve seen her in, she’s always shown her acting talent.

Korean movies are a strange thing, covering a lot more topics and themes than their counterparts. Haeundae could have been another Day After Tomorrow, but instead was a movie about retrospectives.

I think it’s a good movie for any film fan, and Korea’s movie industry is making some big steps in the international field.

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