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The Flu - Movie Poster
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South Korea 2013


Kim Seong-su

Jang Hyeok
Park Min-ha
Yoo Hae-jin
Lee Hee-joon
Kim Ki-hyeon
Lee Sang-yeob
Ma Dong-seok

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The Flu

Story: Ji-goo (Jang Hyeok) is a firefighter and saves the life of female doctor In-hae (Soo-ae). Ji-goo is interested in the woman, but she isn't even thankful for being saved. At the same time a shipping container with illegal immigrants arrives at Bundang. Aside from one single person no one survived the transport as a mutated virus developed in the container. Soon the virus spreads in Bundang as well. When In-hae is presented with the first case of this virus at the hospital she is working at she instantly draws the right conclusions. Together with her superiors she discusses what measures need to be taken. The city of Bundang has to be closed off right away and all sick individuals have to be put under quarantine. The city council doesn't want to hear anything about this until officials see the extent of the outbreak with their own eyes. A quarantine station is set up at which sick people are seperated from healthy ones. There In-hae runs into Ji-goo again, who meanwhile became friends with her little daughter Mirre (Park Min-ha). The only hope the infected have is finding the survivor from the shipping container since he apparently has developed antibodies against the virus.

Review: Actually Korea still lacked a true epidemic movie. There may have already been "Deranged" a year ago, but "The Flu" is more realistic in its core. On the downside it is also a lot more melodramatic for the most part. And at a closer look realism isn't that much of a big subject either, if you actually start counting all the chance happenings in the movie. Often enough you find yourself hitting your forehead out of disbelief, but you also have to admit that this is a well produced blockbuster. Which means that if you know what you have to expect when it comes to a movie that aims at being a Korean crowd-pleaser you won't be disappointed. Everyone else should lower their expectations a bit, because despite some criticism on the government that shines through at some point "The Flu" is still made according to a well-known formula.

The Flu - Film Screenshot 11

Everything starts real lightheartedly, yes, you even get the impression of watching a romantic comedy. Soo-ae ("Midnight FM", "Sunny") doesn't really embody a likeable character. She doesn't even thank her savior since it is the job of rescue workers to help people after all, as she states, and she seems to be rather rejecting in general. This picture of her changes, though, when her daughter comes into play. Her motherly feelings even make her forget her duties as a doctor and turn off any kind of logical reasoning, which in fact makes her a threat to everyone else later on. Yet, she proves that she has a heart as well and her transformation is more or less conveyed in a believable manner by the story, even though she may still be a bit strange.

The Flu - Film Screenshot 12

Jang Hyeok ("The Client", "Windstruck") is the noble and likeable savior who has a chip on his shoulder as it seems that he needs to help whereever he can. However, he is endearing at all times and his charisma serves as adhesive to keep the film together. Strangely enough he shares the best chemistry in the movie with the doctor's little daughter. His romantic relationship with the doctor, which is hinted at, is just a sidenote.
After the outbreak of the virus things shift to a more serious tone. Not only do countless people fall victim to the silent killer, the way the infected are dealt with and the dead are disposed of is outright shocking. Naturally, you don't really get anything new here either, if you have already seen at least one movie about the outbreak of a virus.

It's interesting, however, that the villains aren't necessarily depicted as evil. Looking at it from a greater distance some of the more unethical decisions seem to be quite ethical after all. But what are you really protecting if you lose sight of what's human in a smaller scale? It's also surprising that America, which South Korea is still dependent on, dancing to the big brother's tunes often enough, is depicted pretty critically. Apart from that you shouldn't expect any kind of surprise, though. The outbreak of the virus may not be original either, but accordingly it is still pretty realistic, but the existence of an individual with antibodies is mandatory of course. And do you really want to guess whether things are taking a turn for a happy ending eventually or not?

The Flu - Film Screenshot 13

Director Kim Seong-su ("Musa", "Please Teach Me English") needed ten years to bring his next movie to the big screen. "The Flu" looks like a blockbuster at any time, the crowds of people and the many shots of the city give the story an epic scale and make everything seem very real, also thanks to the good special effects and an appealing soundtrack. But the excessive melodrama, which the movie is soaked in from the second half onwards, once again shows where the flaws of so many Korean blockbusters lies. If "The Flu" continuously were only half as terrifying as it is during its most intense and gruesome moments, this could have been a good movie. The way things are "The Flu" barely eludes a worse rating.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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