Emergency Declaration


Emergency Declaration 

비상선언 (Bisang-seoneon)

South Korea, 2022, 146’, Korean, English
Directed by: Han Jae-rim
Screenplay: Han Jae-rim
Photography (color): Lee Mo-gae, Park Jong-cheol
Editing: Han Jae-rim, Kim Woo-hyun, Lee Kang-il
Production Design: Lee Mok-won, Jin Hye-jeong
Music: Jeong Ji-hoon, Lee Byung-woo
Producers: Han Jae-rim, Kim Dae-seung, Kim Yo-hwan, Han Jae-hun
Cast: Song Kang-ho (Sergeant Koo In-ho), Lee Byung-hun (Jae-hyuk), Jeon Do-yeon (Transport Minister Kim Sook-hee), Kim Nam-gil (co-pilot Hyun-soo), Im Si-wan (Ryu Jin-seok), Kim So-jin (Hee-jin), Park Hae-joon (Park Tae-su)

Date of First Release in Territory:  August 3rd, 2022


That a disaster movie ends up in the grips of an immense real-life disaster during its production is something that, in the past, no one would have ever imagined – if not, perhaps, as the starting point for a film. Yet that is what happened to Emergency Declaration. Filming began in May 2020, with shooting suspended at the end of August due to the Covid-19 pandemic, only to resume in September and conclude on 24 October 2020. But that was not enough; even though the film was presented, out of competition, at the Cannes Film Festival 2021, due to Covid the Korean theatrical release, scheduled for January 2022, was postponed, and the film was released in Korea in early August. On its first day, it broke the annual box office record and, according to data from the Korean Film Council, as of 26 September 2022, it was in eighth place on the list of the highest grossing Korean films of the year. Director Han Jae-rim has re-edited it, making it more “contemporary” in response to current events.
It is always an irresistible guilty pleasure to watch films about air disasters. Even the FEFF paid homage to it in its second edition, with Zhang Jianya’s Chinese film Crash Landing (where in truth the disaster was virtual, to be avoided, but nonetheless terrifying in its hypothetical visualisation). Emergency Declaration blends the themes of air disaster, deadly epidemics and terrorism – a fine catalogue of contemporary anxieties. It is an unabashedly popular film in the old-fashioned way. You shouldn’t expect too original an approach in its mix of genres (it’s even amusing in encompassing all the tropes of an uncompromisingly spectacular cinema), but just allow yourself to get caught up in this star-studded emotional rollercoaster that works even better on the big screen.
A bio-terrorist, Kyu Jin-seok, wants to infect an airliner in flight with an almost instantaneous deadly virus; he is determined to die with everyone else (his way of smuggling the germ vial on board is darkly ingenious). At first we see him trying to find out at Incheon airport which flights are the busiest; his portrayal, at once petulant and aggressive, perfectly renders the psychology of a wretch who enjoys feeling like a minor god of death, and Im Si-wan (formerly of the k-pop band ZE:A) fleshes it out with fine believability. Meanwhile in the city, a corpse is discovered in a small apartment where a cage of guinea pigs is also found. While on the ground a committee tries to figure out what is going on, and to pry information from a suspicious-acting Big Pharma firm, the contagion begins to spread on the plane, narrated with progressive suspense. Indeed, if we remember the days of Covid, when a cough near us made us wince, in this film the effect is similar: when a character coughs (whether on the plane or in the city) we feel a little pang in our hearts – which is a testament to how the film has us hooked.
Travelling on the plane as a passenger, along with his little daughter, is a former pilot undergoing a psychological crisis, Park Jae-hyuk (Lee Byung-hun, whom the FEFF applauded in Ashfall in 2020). Meanwhile, detective Gu In-ho, who on the ground gathers the clues to the mystery (and has his wife on the plane: when he finds out, it’s the only small scene of comic relief), is given a very human face by the great Song Kang-ho. Mention must also be made of Jeon Do-yeon (Secret Sunshine, The Housemaid, Beasts Clawing at Straws) as Minister Kim, for once a competent politician and not a bureaucrat.
As befits a hyper-popular film, Emergency Declaration is a pot pourri of genres: it gradually veers from the detective story to the aviation disaster movie to the tear-jerker (the passengers’ messages) to the political drama, when it turns out that no nation wants to let the plane land – and here, through director-cum-screenwriter Han Jae-rim, the Koreans get a few things off their chest with regards their dear American and Japanese allies. Although the film makes it very clear that the milk of human kindness does not flow freely in Korea either.


Han Jae-rim


Han Jae-rim was born in 1975, and is a graduate of the Seoul Art Institute. His debut Rules of Dating was a critical and commercial hit. His sophomore feature The Show Must Go On featuring Song Kang-ho underperformed slightly at the box office. It was with The Face Reader that Han first experienced major commercial success, selling 9.1 million tickets. The King, a story about the power enjoyed by prosecutors in South Korea, also recorded 5.3 million admissions. His fifth feature Emergency Declaration was his most commercially ambitious film to date, and was invited as a special screening to the Cannes Film Festival in 2021. 


2005 – Rules of Dating
2007 – The Show Must Go On
2013 – The Face Reader
2017 – The King
2022 – Emergency Declaration

Giorgio Placereani
Film director: Han Jae-rim
Year: 2022
Running time: 140'
Country: South Korea
28/04 - 11:20 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
28-04-2023 23:20 29-04-2023 01:40Europe/Rome Emergency Declaration Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine cec@cecudine.org