The key to a successful disaster movie is in the characters and not as many would think in the special effects, sure people paid their five bucks to see explosions, fire and people in peril but if you don’t actually care about those people then the film fails. This is why movies like The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 don’t work because at no point do we give a damn if the protagonist live or die.
I dare you not to care about Ha-na.
“And I’m also five days from retirement.”
“I also refuse to close the beaches.”
Fire, man’s oldest enemy.
As a disaster film this hit all the right notes; characters we care about in peril narrowly escaping ghastly deaths numerous time, heroes risking all to save as many as they can, and idiots who get their just deserts and die horribly. The movie does trot out almost every cliché of the genre and even borrows a few from other genre movies. There is an especially tense scene where a group of survivors try to cross the Sky Bridge which is a glass walkway between the two towers; we’ve seen this in movies where it’s either a rickety bridge or thin ice but clichéd as it may be it is still damn effective and works great here.
Now this is far from a perfect film as the moments of comedy don’t always work and often oddly placed with some characters being just a bit too cartoony to be believable. Those few missteps aside I really felt for those survivors as they scrambled for their lives and I did actually tear up towards the end. That is not something that happens often during these kinds of films. Kim Ji-hoon has made an excellent entry in the disaster film genre and one I highly recommend.
And don’t forget… take the stairs!