It’s not often that a South Korean film comes along and blows me away. Now most people will probably not have access to it but if you do, I encourage you to give this one a look.
Synopsis: In this powerful true story set in 1980, a down-on-his-luck taxi driver from Seoul is hired by a foreign journalist who wants to go to the town of Gwangju for the day. They arrive to find a city under siege by the military government, with the citizens, led by a determined group of college students, rising up to demand freedom. What began as an easy fare becomes a life-or-death struggle in the midst of the Gwangju Uprising, a critical event in modern South Korea. (Well Go USA Entertainment)
Starring: Kang-ho Song, Thomas Kretschmann, and Hae-jin Yoo
Director: Hun Jang
Rating: 14A (Canada)/14A (United States)
Running Time: 137mins
For showtimes and more, check out A Taxi Driver on movietimes.com.
What happens when you place an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation? This film does exactly that as, during the 1980s, we follow a struggling Seoul taxi driver named Kim (Song) who unknowingly agrees to drive a German journalist named Peter (Kretschmann) into a historical warzone known as the Gwangju Uprising. For those who may not know about the Gwangju Uprising, you probably won’t learn anything new as it is just something that the characters have to deal with.
Kim was unaware and he liked it that way, preferring to stay out of those types of matters. Being a single father, he was focused on providing for himself and his young daughter and it was this sense of duty that guided him through this crisis. Before the crisis, Kim and Peter had to meet and a culture clash was evident early on. Other than the obvious language barrier since Kim spoke a little English, Kim had no idea what was going on and didn’t always understand what was happening. His different reactions were priceless because they were exactly like how a normal person would react in the same situation.
This was all fun to watch but the film really got started when Kim saw the uprising for the first time. A lot of disinformation had been shared with the world up until that moment which was why Peter was assigned to cover what was happening. It was a dangerous time for any journalist, however, Peter understood the many risks. Kim didn’t and he made sure everybody knew it. He mostly lived a sheltered life, avoiding any potential danger so seeing the carnage began to open his eyes and started to feel for these unfortunate people. They were more than unfortunate as the people were being gunned down for no reason.
Once they arrived, the people of Gwangju saw the importance of what Kim and Peter were doing and wanted to help. As mentioned, the film did not explore the cause for the uprising but rather did a great job at portraying the people’s sense of community which was the better choice. These were basically normal people being persecuted for no reason and who wanted to help each other in order to assure each other’s survival. The best example of this was when Kim and a group of taxi drivers banded together to save the wounded.
This was a very emotional film that could not have worked if not for Song’s amazing performance as Kim. Kim was an extremely likable and relatable character and it was this relatability that made him so compelling to watch. Kim’s transformation as a character after his sense of humanity was challenged was great to watch as well. Kretschmann was just as excellent as Peter. He was a determined journalist who was equally challenged on an emotional level but was still driven by his sense of duty. The chemistry between Song and Kretschmann, even though they primarily spoke different languages, made them fun to watch.
Overall, this was an excellent foreign film with a compelling and emotional story, elevated by the amazing performances by Song and Kretschmann.