One of the best action sequences of the summer is neither from superhero films nor the Hollywood blockbuster franchises. Instead, it is from South Korea, and to be specific: Ryoo Seung-wan’s (“Veteran” and “The Battleship Island”) political action thriller “Escape from Mogadishu,” which took the Korean box-office by storm and reached nearly 5 million USD in its first week.

Based on the untold true story of South and North Korea embassy staff working together and trying to escape from the deadly war zone in the Somali capital in 1991, “Escape from Mogadishu” is a very rare South Korean production that puts North Korean government officials under the spotlight. Consider the history between the two hostile countries and South Korea’s National Security Law, it’s not very common to see South Korean productions portray North Korea with a “glamorize” filter, thus it’s an achievement that Ryoo treats these real-life North Korean diplomats fairly.

The story takes place two years before the US soldiers dropped into Somalia (see Ridley Scott’s amazing war pic “Black Hawk Down”), South Korean ambassador of Somalia’s mission is to ensure the ally in Africa will support the country’s admission to the UN. However, at the same time, North Korea is doing the same, leading to a wild diplomatic competition. Then, the outbreak of the civil war ravages the capital, leaving South and North Korean no choice but to cooperate to get out of the city before it’s too late. “Let’s state our goal clearly. We’re just banding together to survive,” says the South Korean ambassador.

The rest of the film is a thrilling, climactic ride featuring several jaw-dropping moments, including a chaotic night when North Korean are forced to leave the embassy, ending up in front of the South Korea’s embassy gate. The set of the sea of fires is so terrifying that the sequence intensifies the urgency and the struggle of facing life and death.

And of course, we have to talk about that unbelievable car chase, an impressive “wow-moment” in which the characters have to survive the shootout and slaughter in order to reach the rescue flight. Ryoo often lets the camera linger through the gunfires by capturing the scene inside, outside, on the top, and under the vehicles in a genuinely well-crafted oner. 

Although the ending still delivers a slight political message that can be severed as propaganda, Ryoo’s film is more about the imagination of both parties putting their political statements aside and coming together to achieve something great: a promising future of peaceful reunification. 

GRADE: B+

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  • Distributor: Well Go USA Entertainment
  • Production: Dexter Studios, Filmmaker R&K, and Lotte Entertainment
  • Director: Seung-wan Ryoo
  • Writer: Seung-wan Ryoo and Ki-cheol Lee
  • Producer: Seong-min Jo, Jung-min Kim, and Su-jin Park
  • Cast: Kim Yoon-seok, In-Sung Jo, Joon-ho Huh, So-jin Kim, and Man-sik Jeong
  • “Escape from Mogadishu” released in theaters August 6, 2021

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