Action / Adventure, Disaster, Drama, Films, Recommended posts, Reviews, South Korea

Exit

Not your average disaster movie, this Kpop star-filled’ comedy-drama is towering with danger of toxic proportions…

A fair warning for viewers with acrophobia (a fear of heights), Exit엑시트 isn’t exactly the film for you. With towering skyscrapers, daring vertigo-inducing rock climbing feats, and realistic CGI immersed with sweeping camera shots, Exit is less an enjoyable blockbuster experience than it is a 103-minute nail-biting sweat fest.

As a deadly toxic gas cloud sweeps through Seoul, director Lee Sang-geun’s debut feature resounds with the wasteful millennial audience it’ll hook. With zany comedy moments, an extensive cast of overtly endearing characters, and a rolling story about a terrorist attack that always feels threatening (but never unearths a ‘big bad’ plot villain), there’s something in Exit that is sure to excite and hook all audiences. Cho Jung-seok plays the loveable loser Yong-Nam; a jobless millennial with no relationship, who lives at home with his parents, and has hobbies (such as rock climbing) that everyone looks down on him for. It’s probably tough to find mountains to climb in the middle of Seoul.

After the gas attack during a family birthday celebration for his elderly parents (partying in a downtown high-rise which he only booked as a woeful love interest is the deputy manager), Yong-Nam and the pretty Eui-ju (played by Kpop star Lim Yoona) find themselves vaulting across rooftops and scaling the side of skyscrapers, all to escape the oncoming wave of toxic gas flowing over the city.

Seasoned cinema viewers would liken the style of debut director Lee Sang-geun to that of Ryoo Seung-wan; with likeable characters, unnaturally smooth humour, clever quirks of camera movement combined smart lines, and a flair for suspenseful action (along with a hyper-stylized way of shooting, combine with a very playful colour palate).  Whether this is deliberate, or just Sang-geun finding his own style, I more than welcome his own directorial flair on the film. Both leads in Cho Jung-seok and Lim Yoona play well off each other, though the marketing materials lead you to believe Yoona has a bigger role, though in her first full lead role Yoona files a spectacularly dramatic performance.

Disbelief of plotholes aside (such as where the hell did all the rescue helicopters disappear to, or the fleet of drones?), and a hilarious use of the supporting cast in Yong-nam’s family watching the daring escape via live-streamed drones, Exit is actually a good romp that introduces some new tropes into the tired disaster movie genre. Whilst the film is essentially just repackaging the timeless modern story of a desperate beta male chasing a girl who’s out of his league, director Lee Sang-geun’s use of genre to play around with these well-trodden screen stereotypes is the real standout, and its Sang-geun’s unique cinematic style that makes Exit infinitely enjoyable. The fact that debut director Lee Sang-geun has forged his own visibly unique style in his first feature alone is a testament to his work.

Overall, should you watch Exit? My answer is a resounding yes. It throws away the tired style of disaster movies that have come before, then adds a modern spin on the approach with the use of live streaming and seemingly throwaway ‘Millenial’ hobbies. We all know where the movie is eventually going to end up, but it’s the daring leap of faith we take with Yong-nam across the rooftops of Seoul that really thrills.

Exit screened as the opening film of the London East Asia Film Festival 2019, which runs from 23rd October to 3rd November 2019.

About the author

Andrew Daley
News Editor for easternKicks, and a Video Producer for Cycling Weekly based in London, with a passion for East Asian cinema, photography, and the outdoors. Read reviews/articles »
Read all posts by Andrew Daley

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