I love disaster movies. I don't know if it's because even though they can be far-fetched at times, there is still a realistic nature to them. Disaster movies tend to scare me more than modern day horror films, to the point where I find myself incredibly stressed out and anxious over whatever intense, over-the-top calamity is unfolding. When I had the chance to review TUNNEL, which finds our main character trapped after a poorly constructed tunnel collapses, I couldn't pass up the opportunity.
TUNNEL (Teo-neol) is the latest film from director Seong-hun Kim and stars Jung-woo Ha (who can also be seen in the critically acclaimed film THE HANDMAIDEN) along with Doona Bae and Dal-su Oh. As I mentioned above, the film centers on Jung-soo (Jung-woo Ha), a car salesman who is on his way home to celebrate his daughter's birthday, when he becomes trapped in a tunnel after it collapses around him. With the aid of his cell phone, he's able to communicate for help and describe the disaster that has befallen him. The film then becomes a race against the clock as the emergency response team tries to reach him before it's too late.
I really wanted to like this film, I wanted to feel my heart race while I dug my nails into the sofa. However, this wasn't the case. I wouldn't say the film is bad, it's far from it, the acting is excellent the cinematography is fantastic and there is a decent amount of humor throughout, but when watching a disaster film you want to feel those moments of pure tension and uncertainty, and unfortunately with TUNNEL, those moments were very few and far between. Another aspect that I think worked against this film was the length of the movie. Clocking in at a little over 2 hours, the film had quite a few moments that dragged on that could have been cut, allowing for more tension to build.
Luckily, the audience didn't have to watch Jung-soo suffer alone, as he had the pleasure of finding the cutest pug ever to keep him company. Though the reason for the pug being in the tunnel is for somber reasons, it at least allowed Jung-soo the opportunity to not be alone throughout his ordeal, even if he didn't think the pug was the best companion. Throughout the rescue mission, the audience becomes privy to the obsession that the media has in covering this horrific event. Watching the newscasters trying to get in the way of the police as they did their work was infuriating to watch and I can only imagine how rescue workers must feel trying to do their job with the media spinning it for their own narrative.
Overall, TUNNEL, had the potential to be a really great disaster flick, but sadly was muddled with an overly long run-time and not enough tensity. The humor, which helped to lighten the mood and atmosphere, became a bit overbearing at times and made those who were responsible for Jung-soo's rescue seem incapable of doing their job. These moments took me away from the film as they presented these characters as those who easily blundered their roles. There needed to be a strength behind these characters, as we the audience wanted to see them as heroes, and though no rescue is going to be perfect, using humor to explain why the rescue team was incapable of making sense of the scenario didn't mesh well with the film.
With all that said, don't let my thoughts on the film sway you as TUNNEL does have some great moments and really fantastic performances from the leads, especially Jung-woo Ha. For me though, I just needed there to be a little bit more energy and intensity to make this into a bigger, badder disaster movie. I will say this though, the film has a lot of heart, and other than the ravenous media who want nothing more to exploit the life of Jung-soo, it's hard not to feel for each of the characters by wanting nothing more than for everyone to succeed with no lives lost.
TUNNEL is now available to own on DVD from Well Go USA.