Everything suggested that “Emergency Declaration” could be a quality action thriller – a disaster movie. Festive screening out of competition in Cannes, experienced screenwriter – director Han Jae-rim who has several solid films behind him (The Face Reader, The King) and a first-class cast led by Song Kang-ho (Parasite, Memories of a Murder, The Host , Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Thirst) and Lee Byung-hun (A Bittersweet Life, Good Bad and the Weird, I Saw the Devil). But my movie instincts have clearly failed this time because this stupidity was everything that usually annoys me in similar American action movies.
I have often praised Korean action films on this blog precisely for the reason that they are completely different from similar Hollywood works and that they still mostly follow some logic. There is no logic at all in this film about a bioterrorism disaster on a plane on a flight from Seoul to Hawaii, and by the end the story is completely up to the audience, it is full of pathos, seemingly ordinary people become heroes and exudes that irritating martyrdom and even national pathos. In addition, the film is unnecessarily stretched to almost two and a half hours, and regardless of the fact that the action scenes are superbly shot and the technical performance of “Emergency Declaration” can easily rival any expensive Hollywood production, it is still not something that can impress me. Especially when the story is so stupid and illogical.
So Ryu Jin-seok (Im Si-wan), a young sociopath who is also a microbiologist with serious mental problems and a need for attention will choose a plane as a place to release a deadly virus among people. Although he could release the virus he stole from the pharmaceutical company he once worked for and then perfected anywhere, he decided to test it on the plane. And that’s right on the plane where one of the passengers is the wife of police inspector Gu (Song Kang-ho), and when he realizes what’s going on, he will lead an investigation to find out who the madman is and what his plans are.
Among the passengers is Park (Lee Byung-hun), a former pilot who retired after the accident and now feels anxious when he gets on the plane, but nevertheless he and his daughter went on vacation to Hawaii. In fact, his daughter will be the first to notice that Ryu is up to something, and when he releases the virus he smuggled into the plane in a really hilarious way, it will be too late for all the passengers. Or maybe not! It is the film that targets the viewer’s emotions, because the lives of the passengers and the crew of the plane are at stake, which no one wants to receive, even though the pilot sent a request for a forced landing, which as a rule should be respected and such a plane should be given priority.
Although the story with viruses is irresistibly reminiscent of reality and the situation with covid, which will continue to be a trend, the film was created before the pandemic. It is somewhat ironic that the actual virus outbreak delayed and almost canceled the filming of the action blockbuster about the virus, but the film arrived in Korean theaters more than a year after its Cannes premiere. Although the actors are up to the task, although the direction is of high quality and although the technical performance is absolutely perfect, the story is so hollow, illogical and stupid that it is very difficult to take this disaster movie seriously.