Review by Camden Ferrell
Based on real events in Somalia in the early 1990’s, Escape from Mogadishu is a new South Korean drama film. Already a box-office hit in South Korea, this movie is directed by Ryoo Seung-wan. This is a thrilling film about a real-life event that features memorable action sequences, sharp writing, and a fantastic leading performance.
In the nineties, South Korea was not a member of the UN. In order to secure membership, they needed approval from other countries, so the approval of African countries was imperative to achieving their goal. Ambassador Han Shin-sung and his team are tasked with promoting South Korea to the Somalian government. Meanwhile, North Koreans are also in Somalia for their own purposes. However, civil war erupts in Somalia leading to perilous conditions that endanger the lives of our ensemble. Now, they must find a way to safely escape the war-torn country. This is an exciting premise that has many layers to its story, and it’s all made more engaging due to the true nature of the story.
In addition to directing, Ryoo also wrote the script for the movie. It has its occasional lulls, but it’s a well-written movie that simultaneously informs and entertains. It is able to propel its plot forward while also developing an understanding of the political and diplomatic nuances of the situation. It does a great job of addressing the relations of South and North Koreans as well as briefly touching on the Somalian civil war without muddling its main story.
One of the biggest highlights of the movie is the leading performance from Kim Yoon-seok who plays Han Shin-sung. Even though the entire ensemble brings a lot to the table, Kim absolutely nails his role as the South Korean ambassador. He adapts well to the wide range of scenes, and he has an amazing screen presence that truly elevates his scenes.
Another thing worth mentioning is how incredibly stellar the action is in this movie. While some of it seems a little derivative, Ryoo creatively blocks and executes a particular sequence involving multiple cars, and it is one of the most exciting scenes of the year. It is unpredictable, and it is executed in a creative and unique manner that really sets this movie apart from others in its genre.
There are certain scenes that don’t feel too essential, and a small chunk could have been shaved from the movie without losing too much substance. This is one of the film’s biggest flaws as the extended break between action scenes can often diminish the suspense and tension that the film builds up. Thankfully, the chemistry of the cast can usually compensate for this flaw.
Ryoo’s newest movie also serves as a superficial education on this historical event, and it adds more layers to the main escape thriller story. He also manages to infuse a little bit of humor throughout that is very welcome. It’s a dynamic movie that is another win for South Korean cinema that has the potential to reach a widespread audience who will enjoy it thoroughly.
Escape from Mogadishu is an enjoyable South Korean film with amazing action and great performances. It highlights the writing and directing abilities of Ryoo and manages to tell a layered story from the country’s history.
Escape from Mogadishu is in theaters August 6.