English Title: The Terror Live
Original Title: Deu tae-ro ra-i-beu
Country: South Korea
Genre: Action, Thriller
Director/Writer: Kim Byung-woo
Music: Juno Lee
Cinematography: Byun Bong-sun
Editor: Kim Chang-ju
Third feature from emerging South Korean filmmaker Kim Byung-woo, THE TERROR LIVE cleaves to the single-location gimmick harking back to Joel Schumacher’s PHONE BOOTH (2002), save for a few scenes nearby, the film is exclusively enclosed inside a radio booth which is turned into a makeshift TV broadcasting room, when a disaffected man calls the anchorman Yoon Young-hwa (Ha) in his morning radio show, after blowing up the Mapo Bridge to verify his words, the man demands a public apology from the President for a years-ago mishap which caused the death of 3 construction workers, if that cannot be granted on time, another bomb will detonate and threaten the lives of those who are trapped on the remaining bridge, including Yoon’s ex-wife, reporter Lee Ji-soo (Kim So-jin).
The terrorist attack plot is über-familiar, but Kim Byung-woo, apart from eliciting a ghost of compassion for the underclass perpetrator, sinks his teeth in debunking the abysmal vice and self-serving agendas from all parties involved: the occupant of the Blue House merely cravenly and belatedly makes his appearance on a bisected screen in the faux-triumphant aftermath; the police force’s high-handed, clinical tactic effectually embodied by a repugnant commissioner (Kim Hong-pa) and a seemingly sympathetic officer Park Jeong-min (Jeon Hye-jin); and what’s more disheartening is media practitioners’ callous craving for ratings, exemplified by Yong’s former boss, producer Cha Dae-eun (Lee Kyeong-yeong).
As the sole protagonist, Yoon, has already been a morally and legally compromised has-been to begin with, demoted to radio station for being on the take, he patly deems the initial threat as a crank call, until the reality shocks him to his core, yet, rather than immediately reporting the incident to the police, instinctively and amorally he sees it as a fat chance to cash in for his comeback in the primetime TV slot, after securing a bargain with Cha, Yoon manages to monopolize a live broadcasting with the disembodied caller, but little does he know, his own life is also precariously on the line.
Urgency and gravitas are cordially felt through Kim Chang-ju’s energetic editing, arresting SFX shots of the increasingly (if not entirely unexpectedly) parlous situation viewed from televisual screens, and most of all, Ha’s engaging performance, who presides over a rote procedure with due intensity and mental immersion, defiantly, Yoon’s arc of spiritual sublimation never take place, THE TERROR LOVE shatters any common expectation of a justice/conscience prevailing climax with a bleak one that goes for broke in its stirring message, a cri-de-coeur leveling at a society corrupted by selfishness, malfeasance, duplicity and avarice. Radical and uneasy the coda may seem to be, it also reflects the integrity and spunk of Kim Byung-woo and his team, infusing an entertaining fare with an uncharacteristically realistic pang.
referential entries: Bong Joon-ho’s MEMORIES OF MURDER (2003, 8.5/10); Joel Schumacher’s PHONE BOOTH (2002, 5.8/10).