REVIEW - Thursdays at the Theatre: "Sea Fog" mixes human trafficking, murky morality
‘Sea Fog” skillfully mixes many ingredients of a successful thriller — the moral darkness of film noir, the obsessed-captain sea stories, the contemporary edginess of human-smuggling ordeals. It even throws in a dash of global politics, in this case the Asian economic crisis stemming from problems with the International Monetary Fund.
More than anything, though, this recent Korean blockbuster is a study in the vastly different ways that humans respond to extreme pressure. And, of course, it’s also a tender love story.
Backed into a corner
The plot, based loosely on a 2001 incident involving the transport of illegal immigrants, begins, like many thrillers, on a deceptively quiet note. A rundown Korean trawler, its motley crew having failed to catch anything in overfished waters, limps back to port early in need of repairs.
The boat’s mortgage holder shows up at the dock, threatening to cash it in on a government program aimed at getting obsolete vessels off the water. It’s worth more as scrap, he says, that it is in operation.
What will the crew do, though? Fishing is all they know. As it is, failure is taking a heavy toll on their personal lives. They can’t afford girlfriends. They have to hock their belongings and pretend to their families that they’re getting paid.
In the case of the captain, Kang Cheol-joo, his wife has contempt for his skills as a provider. On this day, coming home early, he catches her in a cozy situation with a Chinese-Korean laborer. Not that anything would surprise him about her. Maybe the situation would improve for him if he could buy his boat back, but the bank won’t front him the money. It seems the missus has already taken out an equity loan on the restaurant she runs.
Bad to worse
Fresh out of options, Cheol-joo decides to accept the offer of a sleazy business owner he knows and run one load of Chinese-Korean illegals into the country. Shouldn’t be too complicated – a quick trip at night when no one is watching.
One thing after another goes wrong, though. To start with, there are far more immigrants than expected. The seas are rough as the transfer is made from the other boat; one refugee falls into the water and has to be rescued.
It turns out there are a couple of women among them, and every seaman knows that’s bad luck. A couple of others have smart mouths and start getting their fellow travelers worked up. In dealing with the issue, the captain shows the first signs of emotional instability.
Worse yet, a heavy fog prevents the return to shore, and in the daylight they get a visit from the Coast Guard. The real trouble starts when the crew has to find creative ways to hide all the extra people…
For a non-Hollywood movie, “Sea Fog” had a pretty healthy budget to work with. It really is a tour de force of cinematic technique, with a lot of visual variety and movement, considering that almost all of it is shot aboard a modest-sized fishing boat.
The movie also was South Korea’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards a couple of years back. It features one veteran star (Kim Yun-seok of “The Yellow Sea”), a handful of established character actors and even a Korean pop star(Park Yoochun) in his acting debut.
At the helm is producer Bong Joon Ho, who directed the international creature sensation “The Host,” and who co-wrote “Sea Fog” with first-time director Shim Sung-bo. Predictably, they are able to pull out a successful film that’s a good deal darker, visually and psychologically, than Hollywood would dare attempt in a project that has large investments at stake.
If you go: “Sea Fog” will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Historic Yuma Theatre, 254 S. Main St. The screening, part of the Arizona Western College Foundation’s “Thursdays at the Theatre,” includes an independent short film and a hosted discussion. Language is Korean, with English subtitles; run time of the feature is 111 minutes. Admission is $5, $2.50 for AWC students and staff.
Details about Sea Fog's screening at the Historic Yuma on August 25.
Thursdays at the Theatre, a film series by AWC Foundation, will be showing, "Sea Fog", "crisp, starkly beautiful compositions, contrasting claustrophobic human activity with the ocean's vastness." – Maggie Lee, Variety
South Korea | 2014 | Drama- Thriller| Korean w/ English Subtitles | 111 min| Club Date: 12/1/2015
Synopsis Kang, a long time captain of the Junjin, is disheartened to learn that his ship has been sold by its owner, leaving Kang's entire crew in danger of losing their livelihood. Swallowing his pride, Kang pays a visit to Yeo, a human trafficking broker, and decides to take on the dangerous job of smuggling illegal migrants into South Korea. When the Junjin arrives at the pickup point, a violent storm forces the boat to stall in the open waters, inevitably pitting Kang's crew against the migrants. As tension and unrest spread throughout the Junjin, a dense sea fog envelops the boat, and tragedy unfolds in the mysterious depths of the fog...
This movie will be showing in our beautiful Historic Yuma Theatre at 7:00pm.
Enjoy our great tasting popcorn and refreshments.
Movie will start at 7:00 pm $5 AT THE DOOR, AWC/NAU STUDENTS $2.50 W/VALID ID