Monday, August 9, 2021

Escape from Mogadishu / 모가디슈 - Movie Review

The Movie: Escape from Mogadishu / 모가디슈

The Director: Ryoo Seung-wan

The Cast: Kim Yoon-seok, Huh Joon-ho, Zo In-sung, Koo Kyo-hwan, Joung Man-sik, Kim So-jin

The Story: Based on a true story: as civil war rages in Mogadishu, rival North and South Korean diplomats are left trapped. With no aid from either government, their only shot at survival may require uniting with bitter adversaries to escape.

The Review:
Most everyone knows the story of the US invasion of Somalia as seen in the flag waving cinematic symbol of patriotism known as Black Hawk Down but that is just a small sample of what went down during the east African country's excessively deadly civil war. Ryoo Seung-wan's latest film shows the events from the Korean perspective although a couple years before the US military arrived to do their thing. Ryoo focuses on the uneasy relationship between the members of the North and South Korean embassies using the civil war, I was going to say as a backdrop, but it is more of a primary part of the story than that might imply.

This isn't a big action movie like Black Hawk Down or other American made propaganda films but there is plenty of action and a couple car chase scenes that are as intense and exciting as what you might see in other blockbuster style films. Director Ryoo maintains a good balance of drama and action with bits of comedy mixed in to keep things from getting too heavy. There are a lot of different characters in the movie and at first it was hard to keep track of them all but the director finds a way to give each of them their just due in the story and, by the end, he has built enough of an emotional connection for a strong payoff at the end.

From an historical perspective, this movie has a lot more to say about the relationship between the two Koreas than it does about the mass murders, rebellion, and hostile takeovers within Mogadishu with lots of political intrigue and paranoia adding to the drama. What I really like about this story is how humanity can triumph over politics and opposing ideals especially when faced with extreme adversity. As the city is literally burning around them, the director shows how the men and women of the two Korean embassies must find a common ground while maintaining what they feel is their own integrity and moral high ground. Tricky stuff for sure, but the director and the actors all handle this aspect of the movie about as well as they could.

The Verdict:
Escape from Mogadishu is a thrilling story about humanity and survival during a time of extreme violence and unbridled devastation. This isn't really a war movie but director Ryoo Seung-wan uses the Somalian civil war to great effect in creating a highly dramatic and tension filled story.


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