Director Kim Sung-hoon elevates his disaster flick from predictable to palatable with offbeat details: a deaf Messiah, a fresh cream birthday cake, a classical music radio station and a pug dog.
The Tunnel has echoes of A Hard Day in the opening scene where Jung-soo (played by Ha Jung-woo) talks on the phone while behind the wheel. In lieu of a corpse, the titular tunnel and he collide. As he drives through the tunnel, it rumbles and collapses, and his car is wrecked and pinned under the debris. His phone, a link to the outside world, has 78 percent life left. He starts to call his car coated with a grey blanket of dust home, imbibes water like it’s an edible Listerine and marks off the days in the manner of Chuck Noland. No sign of the salvage until he winds up being well-acquainted with classical music.
When the audience may be on the verge of claustrophobia, director Kim injects some fresh, frosty air into the screen; the camera cruises above scenic ridges. While Ha Jung-woo, whose cavalier and unpredictable lines make the audience teeter between nerve-racking and rib-tickling, garners lots of giggles, Bae Doo-na excels in drawing tears in a more restrained fashion and reminding the audience that a human being is trapped in the rubble, not a reptile. Oh Dal-soo is prone to speaking at concert volume and does a superb job of quenching the rage.
There are incidents galore and a potent allegory of the government. It is highly likely that you will find yourself riding a roller-coaster of emotions and giving it a thumbs-up as the ride reaches a complete stop.
Director: Kim Sung-hoon
Writer: So Jae-won (novel)
Stars: Ha Jung-woo, Bae Doo-na, Oh Dal-soo
Release Date: August 10, 2016 (South Korea)
Running Time: 126 min.
Country: South Korea