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The Phone - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Deo pon

South Korea 2015

Genre:
Thriller, Crime, Sci-Fi

Director:
Kim Bong-joo

Cast:
Son Hyeon-joo
Eom Ji-won
Bae Seong-woo
No Jeong-ee
Jang In-sub
Jo Dal-hwan


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The Phone

The Phone - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Go Dong-ho (Son Hyeon-joo) is a lawyer and one evening parties with his colleagues until very late at night. He actually promised his wife to be at home sooner than usual, but since their daughter Kyeong-rim (No Jeong-ee) isn't with them at the moment he takes the opportunity to have some fun. However, when he gets back home he finds his wife killed. For one year he and the police look for clues in the case, but to no avail. Just when Dong-ho starts to work again and wants to steer his life into a normal direction again, he gets a phone call: from his wife. At first, Dong-ho believes that this is a bad joke, but it seems that special solar winds, which also could be witnessed exactly one year ago when his wife was murdered, create a connection to the past. Still, Dong-ho has only a few hours to save his wife from the killer. Police detective Jae-hyeon (Bae Seong-woo) somehow seems to be involved in the case and with the clues he gets from his wife in the past Dong-ho manages to get closer to the truth in the present. But with every piece of information he tells his wife he also alters the present.

The Phone - Film Screenshot 2 The Phone - Film Screenshot 3
The Phone - Film Screenshot 4

Review: Yeah, yeah, the good old "time". Time is often misunderstood. And has to serve as some of the most absurd science fiction plot devices. Even though "The Phone" is in fact a thriller through and through. And this is what will turn out to be the biggest problem for all those who are fans of science fiction stories. Logic and conclusiveness is nothing you should be searching for in this thriller. If you can overlook that fact, and this actually might be hard to do for some viewers, there is little that speaks in the movie's disfavor - that is if you are looking for a decent thriller. Very solid in the technical department director Kim Bong-joo tells a story with his debut work that apparently wants to come across as smart and witty, but in fact turns out to be everything but that. However, the movie is still full of suspense, even though mainly in moments in which the protagonists act so dim-witted and mentally handycapped that it almost physically hurts to watch them.

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Ok, let's get right to the aspect of time so that we are over and done with it. The film takes the same idea as "Frequency" from the year 2000. A man talks to a beloved person from the past. This time, it's not over a radio, though, but a Samsung smartphone. Yes, good old product placement has been done in a more subtle manner before. And why is this kind of communication even possible? Solar winds! Yes, we simply should be thankful that there have been no further attempts at diving into more detail. It only would have become even more outrageous. But wait, there is more. Just like in the movie "Looper" from 2012 - a truely overrated sci-fi flick, in my opinion - altering the past has instantanious effects on the present. Scars develop, pictures change, memories have to be rearranged. And why exactly are people surprised again by sudden scars appearing? After all, they aren't really developing all of a sudden, but are already a year old.

The Phone - Film Screenshot 6

That's where the headache starts. Dear screenwriters, could you please stop treating time in this absolutely moronic fashion while feeling extraordinarily smart doing so? In fact, changes in the past should lead to individuals in the present suddenly being in completely different places and the protagonists should be fully aware where they are, why they are at that place and what they were about to do. Only the audience would need a explanation or even a completely new introduction to what's going on. Sure, on a narrative level this is barely realizable. But even if you are willing to turn a blind eye on those facts - because of the given reasons - the ending doesn't make any sense at all. Since the last call there actually shouldn't be any new impact on or changes to the present. For some reason - naturally, to add some more tension... - the two time levels are parallely connected; exactly to the very same minute. Although before that point in the movie, this wasn't really the case...

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"The Phone" also does the big mistake to completely lose sight of where it needs to put its priorities. The investigation in the present can only achieve so much. The information acquired instead have to be put to use in the past for the time line the be altered. Apparently, this is completely disregarded temporarily, leading to especially the finale being void of any logic. Apart from that the protagonists are so dense at times that we also can't be sure whether "The Phone" isn't supposed to be a comedy as well. A good example for this is when Dong-ho wants to warn his wife about #the burglar. Basically, he just would have needed some kind of excuse for her to lock herself up resp. leave the house instead of telling her the everything but credible truth. No one comes up with this idea or any similar absolutely obvious possibility. Sometimes, this makes things even outright frustrating.

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Son Hyeon-joo ("Chronicles of Evil", "Hide and Seek") portrays the somewhat incompetent lawyer/investigator and his sometimes a bit slow-witted wife is embodied by Eom Ji-won ("Hope", "The Scarlet Letter"). At least, the two aren't constantly playing an easy victim to the villain, played by Bae Seong-woo ("Office"). Every now and then they also fight back. This also leads to some nice chasing scenes and thrilling quarrels, even though they prove to be nothing more than genre-typical. There are also a few twists, but nothing you wouldn't be able to see miles in advance. This makes "The Phone" a mediocre thriller, that will mainly be to the liking of those viewers that aren't bothered by the illogical time line entanglements as much I was. Anyway, not even the surface of this thriller's potential has been scraped.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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