Honestly, I’ve been keeping my eye on this movie since last year, when the news of Park Yoochun’s casting surfaced. Well what can I say, he’s one of my favorite idol-turned-actor, second only to Choi Seunghyun. But then again,this movie is produced and co-written by Bong Jooonho, who got me smitten with Snowpiercer last year. So I am convinced enough to get excited over Shim Sungbo’s directorial debut.
The fishing boat Junjin hasn’t been getting as many fish as expected lately, and they’re practically living off of being in debt. Driven into a corner, the captain Cheoljoo (Kim Yoonseok) decided to take the job if smuggling illegal immigrant from China to Korea. But the sea fog, vicious sea, and the South Korean Maritime Police turned the journey into something much harder than they initially thought.
And on board the ship, a love is blossoming in between the youngest crew Dongsik (Park Yoochun) and the immigrant Hongmae (Han Yeri)…
I must admit that I am impressed with this movie. For a directorial debut, I think Sungbo did a very great job. Although I would of course attribute some part of it to Bong Joonho, because it’s the story that caught my attention. I was expecting some sort of a thriller movie about smuggling, with the chase with the police and carefully crafted plans that usually come with such heist, with the natural force as additional hindrance. And at first I thought that it’s what I’m going to get. At least that’s what the story alludes to, until a huge wave come crashing down and tip me off balance, turning the story around into a direction that I wasn’t expecting – at all.
But the story is not without flaws. Sea Fog arguably fell into the trap of turning a love line into a life line, depending too much on the two main characters’ growing feeling for each other. While this may not always be a bad thing,it did turned the immigrant smuggling into a mere background event instead of an important plot point – which I think is such a shame. Because I really think that they could make a better use of the smuggling attempt, showing more dynamics among the immigrants and between them and the crew. I would argue that this is partly because Sea Fog depend too much on the seaborne love story. Hence the focus on Dongsik and Hongmae without ever giving us a real chance to get to know the other crews, more so the immigrants. Yes, they did left quite a mark in one way or the other. But they felt a bit too two-dimensional without any real depth and the snippets of them that we got is just not enough. I may remember them, but I don’t feel particularly connected to them or even feel intrigued to know more about them. Wanho did had a bit depth, but it’s still doesn’t suffice.
Luckily, the three characters that matters all have enough appeals. Captain Cheoljoo is someone that has gone past his hey day but can’t seem to get over it, stubbornly insist to stay in the past. He is calloused, but as the story goes you’ll see more of his grey morality and you know that he really is isn’t one that you’d like to mess with. And Kim Yoonseok express the coldness in him so well it sends shivers down my spine. On the other hand, Dongsik is the typical goodie two shoes that accidentally fell in the wrong batch, a stark contrast with Cheoljoo’s rouge character. Even their character establishing moment when they set foot in the land for the first time is such a contrast: Dongsik went home to his grandmother and was welcomed by his loving grandmother, while Cheoljoo went back to his cheating wife. Dongsik does have some development and turns out to have more steel than what he lets on, but he still is the nice protagonist that you’re supposed to be cheering on. Yet I found Cheoljoo’s character more intriguing and captivating, and he’s the one that I want to know more about. On contrary, Hongmae is simply just too much of an opportunist stuck up for me to like and I somehow doesn’t feel sympathetic with her at all. There’s just something missing with her expression and much too formal way of talking.
Still, the important thing is that Sea Fog managed to gripped me tightly throughout the movie with it’s suffocating tension. The cinematography was awe inducing, allowing you to see the contrast of the vast sea and the cramped ship. The heavy fog, rain, and waves also all play a part in making the movie even more tense. The narrative could use some developing, and I would really appreciate to see more of their attempt in keeping the boat afloat before resorting to drastic means. But all in all, it still is a great directorial debut by Shim Sungbo. Sea Fog was such a pleasure to watch, and hell it even complement the narrative with blood and angst. What more can I ask for?
Director: Shim Sungbo. Writers: Shim Sungbo, Bong Joonho. Released on: 16 October 2014 (Singapore). Casts: Kim Yoonseok, Park Yoochun, Lee Heejoon, Moon Seungkeun, Kim Sangho, Han Yeri.