Italian Premiere | In Competition

Guest star:
KIM Seong-hun, director

Ransomed opens in Lebanon in January 1986, with the armed kidnapping of second secretary Oh Jae-seok, who works for the South Korean embassy in Beirut. Efforts to secure the diplomat’s release fail, with no indication of where he has been taken, or who his abductors are. By late 1987 it is assumed by everyone that the man is dead, but one day the phone rings at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul. The ministry official who takes the call hears a tapping on the other end, which he quickly recognizes as an internal code used by ministry officials. The call is soon cut off, but when the message is decoded, it leaves everyone in shock: “I am Oh Jae-seok.” It’s not much evidence to go on, but the Foreign Ministry decides to make one last unofficial effort to trace Oh’s whereabouts and secure his release. Lee Min-jun, the official who received the phone call, agrees to carry out the mission himself. After inquiring through some back channels, he is introduced to a rich art dealer in Switzerland who has extensive contacts in Lebanon, and who says he can act as a mediator for a ransom payment. Min-jun then flies into Lebanon carrying a great deal of money, with instructions to meet a local militia leader who will help him. But things do not go according to plan, and Min-jun quickly finds himself on the run .

By a stroke of coincidence, Min-jun ends up meeting a Korean national named Pan-su who has been living in Beirut working as a taxi driver. The two do not get off to the best of starts, with Min-jun desperate for help but Pan-su eager to avoid trouble. But gradually they will form a wary partnership. In this way, Ransomed unfolds as a tense thriller, but also a sort of buddy movie about two compatriots with very different backgrounds and goals trying to work together .

Much of the film hinges on the bumpy relationship between the two men, but director Kim Seong-hun nicely balances drama, humor and action into an entertaining mix. He has worked with both of these actors before – top star Ha Jung-woo (Min-jun) was the lead in Kim’s third feature Tunnel (2016), while Ju Ji-hoon (Pan-su) played the crown prince in the acclaimed period zombie series Kingdom, which Kim shot for Netflix .

Both seemingly feel at ease in these roles, and they form a nice contrast in terms of their personalities and quirks .

Ransomed is based on a real-life incident, and although some government records on the matter still remain classified, the film also illustrates how the heroic efforts of committed individuals can sometimes be undermined by the political calculations of those above them. It’s an old and familiar dynamic, but Ransomed succeeds in making this story fresh and fully engaging: both an effective thriller, and a story that leaves its audience with some food for thought.

Darcy Paquet
Film director: KIM Seong-hun
Year: 2023
Running time: 132'
Country: South Korea
25/04 - 9:25 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
25-04-2024 21:25 25-04-2024 23:37Europe/Rome Ransomed Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine cec@cecudine.org