Director Bong Joon-ho is no slouch. Graduating from the Korean Academy of Film Arts, he directed Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000) and Memories of Murder (2003,a film that went on to win the Korean film industryís Grand Bell Award for best director. He may go down in history as having directed Koreaís most successful film ever with Gwoemul known in The States as The Host.
Bong is partial to the leftist Democratic Labor Party in Korea, something akin to The New Left here in The States. As any writer or director may acknowledge, some of your own beliefs and fears will emerge when creating stories and molding characters. The Host is no different. Rife with liberal rhetoric and portraying America as creepy and untrustworthy as the creature itself, Gwoemul makes no attempt to hide its somewhat liberal agenda. However, the depictions are accomplished in such a careful and methodical way that you canít help but walk away from this movie thinking ďIs this how other countries see us and if so how can I change this horrible political image?Ē
The Host isnít all politics. Itís also a cautionary tale of environmental awareness (ultimately caused by the stupidity of an American) in the vane of Gojira. Above all, itís a story about four family members banding together for a common cause. Park Hie-bong (Hie-bong Byeon) and his son Gang-Du (Kang-ho Song) run a small food stand near the Wonyho Bridge along the Han River. Gang-Du, a somewhat dim witted man, has one daughter, school girl Hyun-seo (Ah-sung Ko). He also has a brother, Nam-il (Hae-il Park) and a sister Nam-joo (Du-na Bae). Nam-il,a college graduate with a somewhat questionable past, hasnít done much with his life except drink. Nam-joo is a national medalist in archery who can never seem to get more than a bronze. When a creature emerges from the Han River and captures Hyun-seo, the somewhat dysfunctional family has to overcome their differences to get her back. Taking on red tape, American interference, the threat of a virus and Korean politics, they stand together in their conviction that she is still alive and set out to find her on their own. Watching them overcome their general distaste for one another lead by their venerable father is entertaining, comical and at times very touching.
The story and special effects are phenomenal. The acting is fantastic as long as you stay away from the English dubbed version. Do yourself a favor and listen to the Korean acting and take the time to read the subtitles. In addition, most of the humor is completely lost in the English dubbing and there are quite of few moments of brevity in this film.
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Writers: Chul-hyun Baek
MPAA Rating: R for creature violence and language.