Director: Kim Byeong-woo
Starring: Choi Jin-ho, Ha Jung-woo, Han Sung-chun, Jeon Hye-jin
Recently demoted former TV news anchor Yoon Young-hwa (Ha Jeong-woo) now hosts a small radio program that takes calls from the public. When a caller, seemingly unhappy with his treatment on air, threatens to blow up the Mapo Bridge, no one takes it seriously. After hanging up; the bridge, visible from within the studio, is rocked by an explosion. Sensing an opportunity for an exclusive, Yoon scrambles the network for a newsflash, going on the air to report on the possibility of terrorism and air the interview with the suspected bomber. As the broadcast continues, it becomes clear that Yoon is playing a much larger role in the bomber’s plan and pulled in two directions by his ratings hungry director (Lee Kyoung-yeong) and a police liason (Jeon Hye-jin). Things become infinitely more complicated when it is revealed that Yoon has had an explosive device attached to him as well, with the proviso that he must continue the broadcast no matter what.
Marketed as a ‘in real time’ thriller, The Terror Live certainly grabs you right from the get go. Clearly a commentary on the state of misinformation in the media and social decay, sophomore director Kim Byeong-woo takes a very edit heavy and visceral approach to the story. Utilizing various cameras, filters, and presentation styles, the film seems like a guerilla style film. There is a manic energy to the events on screen that certainly translated to me and I was clearly invested in the story and characters. Ha Jung-woo delivers a very powerful performance as the anchor driven to the edge and held hostage to do the terrorist’s biddings. His position as a reporter is evident in his analyses during the events; he’s hypothesizing and constantly processing new information as it comes in and serves as an excellent focal point for the audience.
The subject of terrorism is always a tough one to broach on film; you don’t want to condone such deviant behavior but it is tough to argue against the perceived apathy present in many seats of power. The scenes where Yoon is put on the spot by the caller are tense, story driven, and compelling; so much so that I sitting straight up in my seat. The fact that these scenes are simply pure acting, facial expression, and reaction has put Ha firmly on my radar as an actor. It is an instinctive performance and certainly one of the better Korean performances I’ve seen all year.
With a title like The Terror Live, the film wisely uses multiple scenes of terror to provide multiple ‘punched in the gut’ moments. Like a live news report, the experiences of victims and the public draw you in and since we are privy to the dialogue between Yoon and the man with his hand on the trigger, it creates some very palpable tension that moves the film ahead at a frenetic pace. The ‘real time’ aspect continues through most of the film, though it does conveniently leave it out the door towards the end. It’s a caveat given by the audience in order or the picture to get to its conclusion. The ending is probably going to be pretty divisive. I for one had a very lackluster impression at films’ end; it feels very different from how the picture flows. It is a bit of a surprise that I supposed deserves kudos for the ambition, but I was iffy on the execution.
Running at a lean, but intense 97 Minutes, The Terror Live is an expertly crafted and genuinely compelling thriller from director Kim. The picture certainly seems to have more of a Hollywood demeanor about it than is typical for a Korean picture, but it infuses enough Korean sensibility and keeps it gripping. A tense and, thankfully, serious film, The Terror Live has already been optioned for an American remake, but I doubt the somewhat sympathetic terrorist angle will play out as fully here as in South Korea. Definitely worth a watch, check it out when you can.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Phone Booth, Unstoppable, Nick of Time.
Special thanks to CJ Entertainment for providing a viewing copy of the movie!