Directed by Kim Sung-Soo
Distributed by CJ Entertainment
Wow! Flu is an impressive Korean disaster film that brings viewers so close to ground zero that it actually feels at times as if you’re watching raw newsreel footage instead of a fictional film. Director (and co-writer) Kim Sung-Soo paints a chilling picture of the horrors of an Avian Flu pandemic and how all facets of society could break down.
This is a disaster flick. There are no twisters or earthquakes or tsunamis (or sharknados for that matter), but Flu is indeed a disaster film because what else would you call it when an entire city breaks down in a matter of a days?
Flu tells a familiar tale of plague. Whether it’s called The Red Death, Captain Tripps or Avian Flu, we’ve seen the infectious disease story before. But the reason it works so well is because we’ve also seen it all too frequently on the news as things like Swine Flu, H1N1 and Mad Cow Disease have haunted our dreams just as much as any horror film. Flu taps right into those nightmares and scares us with not only the possibility of infection but also the probability that our government leadership would have no idea how to handle it.
The main story revolves around an emergency rescue team member, Kang Jigu (Jang Hyuk). He save a woman named Kim In-Hye (Su Ae) from a perilous car accident and becomes quite smitten with her. He also meets her daughter, Kim Mi-reu, who might be the cutest child put into a movie… ever. I’m not usually one to take notice of the cuteness of a child actor, but this kid is something else. Played by five-year-old (give or take a year) Park Min-ah, Mi-reu is absolutely adorable, and even the most black-hearted viewer will instantly fall in love with her.
But enough about cute kids and melting black hearts. Flu is a punch in the gut. Basically the story goes like this: An Avian Flu pandemic sweeps the Seoul suburb of Bundang, and conditions become absolutely horrible very, very quickly. From forced evacuations to confinement in quarantine camps, the citizens of the suburb are herded like cattle as government forces try to contain the danger. However, even after citizens are confirmed to be clear from disease, the government is still hesitant to release them in fear that they may be yet to show symptoms. From there bad things happen, man. Bad things.
Watching Flu gives you a claustrophobic feeling of impending doom as you ask yourself, “How far away are we from this? Is this possible? Could it happen in a day or two?” It resurrects images of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath and the earthquake in Haiti. We see death and despair everywhere and a government unsure of exactly how to deal with the situation. And as citizens, isn’t that the scariest part? The uncertainty that those who will be making the call when something goes horribly awry will be making decisions for the wrong reasons… for political reasons or because they are ignorant. Or will the righteous have to fight against others with separate personal agendas to get the proper things done? All of this is illustrated in Flu. The film works so well on both levels. As things become deadly on the streets, we are right in the middle of the quarantine camps and the doctors’ hunt for a cure. But we are also brought into the meeting room as scientists and politicians butt heads trying to come up with a solution that appeases both sides. Do you shut down an entire city? Can you? How can you not?
In addition to the fantastic drama in Flu, both on the bureaucratic level and in the streets, the movie is filled with incredible cinematography. Stunning shots of a city that has become a veritable shanty town fill the screen as you wonder, “How the hell did they do that?” And when the Seoul Sports Complex becomes a mass burial ground, you can only sit there and appreciate some stellar F/X work.
With Flu we once again have a film that depicts man against a natural enemy, but when we dig deeper into the story, we see that it is indeed the cruelty and selfishness of humanity that becomes an even bigger threat. The movie does an excellent job of showing the routes by which the infection infiltrates society, how easily and silently this killer slips from one person to the next. From something as shocking as rats escaping from a known contaminated area to such innocuous events as an infected person’s cough on the subway. If a virus like this were to rear its ugly head, would we be this susceptible? Oh yes, Dreadies, we would be.
The special features on the Flu DVD give an in-depth look into director Kim Sung-Soo’s vision. There is a great concept art feature that looks at original storyboards and shows how they were brought to life though practical and digital effects. It’s interesting to look at the raw footage that was actually shot and then see the magic added digitally. The featurette contains some informative interviews with Kim Sung-Soo, members of the cast and F/X supervisor Ryu Jae-Hwan. There is also a thorough behind-the-scenes feature with interviews and raw footage. Deleted scenes round out the package.
In all honesty, Flu is one of the more emotional films I’ve seen in quite some time. Maybe I fell victim to a manipulative finale that tugged on my heartstrings, but I don’t think so. Flu felt very realistic and built to a climax that was genuine and powerful… and you’ll see what I mean if you check it out. The imagery is amazing. The situations are engrossing, and the acting is fantastic. Oh, and just try tell me that you didn’t fall in love with little Mi-Reu. You can’t!
Flu doesn’t haunt you with supernatural scares or paranormal events; it digs right into your realistic fears. Fears about what could happen if things go out of control. If something comes up that our great protectors can’t protect us from. It is gritty and real and extremely entertaining. Do yourself a favor and infect yourself with Flu!
4 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5