K-Movie Review: ‘Emergency Declaration’ A Turbulent Flight Culminating in an Unconvincing Plot Twist

Emergency Declaration review

Edited by Ye Eun Cho
Translated by Yu Jin Kim

Emergency Declaration review
Credit: Showbox

What would happen if a terrorist gets on board an aircraft filled with excited tourists? The government will probably do everything it takes to save the passengers, and the people will hope and wish for their safe return home. However, things may change if the threat extends to the lives of people on the earth.

Emergency Declaration is a story about an aircraft that declares an emergency landing and people who strive to survive horrific bioterrorism. Although there are some interesting elements behind this movie that distinguish it from other aviation-disaster films, the overall plot fell short of many of our expectations.

The film begins with Jin Seok (played by Yim Si Wan) asking, “What’s the most booked flight?” at an airline counter. However, he leaves the counter empty-handed as the employee refuses to answer him for privacy reasons. Failing to choose a plane to get on board, Jin Seok heads to the bathroom and cautiously inserts a mysterious object under his armpit. Soo Min witnesses his suspicious behavior and tells her father Jae Hyuk (Lee Byung Hun) what she saw as Jin Seok washes his bloody hands in the sink. Noticing being spotted, Jin Seok decides to board the same flight as the girl and gets a one-way ticket headed to Hawaii.

The film successfully maintains its tension and wit halfway through as Im Si Wan brilliantly portrays his psychopathic role. The polite, pretty actor we once knew is nowhere to be found in this film as a rude, lifeless-eyed man replaces him for this dangerous 140-minute-ride. His decent look and clean outfit make it seem like there’s nothing wrong with him, but viewers quickly notice something very off about him as soon as he speaks. The film never tries to hide that Jin Seok is the real culprit and such a choice sets this film apart from other movies about terrorism.

The film keeps its tension coiled tight until the first victim’s death but gradually becomes less engaging as it spends too much of its running time up in the air. It constantly tries to find a way to make the plot more dramatic by throwing distressful conflicts here and there, and such an attempt makes the story slow and not as exciting. These contrived settings, as well as some of its tear-jerking scenes, didn’t exactly help it deliver its true message to the audience.

Emergency Declaration review
Credit: Showbox

Although its central theme is aviation terror, the movie doesn’t only focus on the horrors of what the passengers experience. For instance, people on the ground, including In Ho (Song Kang Ho), the detective who left his wife on the deadly plane; Sook Hee (Jeon Do Yeon), the Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport; and Tae Soo (Park Hae Joon), the head of the Blue House crisis management center, also play significant parts in the film as they try their best in their given tasks.

In Ho does whatever it takes to save his wife from the frightening terror, and his behavior becomes more reckless and impulsive as the film reaches its latter half. In the end, he becomes the ultimate father figure that protects his family. On the other hand, Sook Hee represents a sense of guilt in this film as she feels heavily responsible for saving people despite her fears. Lastly, Tae Soo mainly focuses on making rational decisions and reflects on the heartless society that we are living in right now.

The film also portrays the social problems that we face right now, such as neglect of the weak, political extremism and ethnocentrism. Emergency Declaration realistically depicts how the current society would deal with a terrifying disaster in the scope of director Han Jae Rim who intended to make this film close to a documentary rather than a blockbuster. The director made a bold choice by not using the usual structure of “good vs. evil” and elevated the film to another level.

It is also interesting that the film features an irredeemable villain who gives us nothing to sympathize with. In Liam Neeson’s Non-Stop, the terrorist hijacks a plane for his own reasons, although the reasoning behind his actions is not justified in what he does. However, Jin Seok in Emergency Declaration is a purely evil character filled with madness. Depending on the viewers, such an aspect may come as an interesting creative choice to some of the audience.

The film focuses on the people rather than the terror itself. Although it starts with fresh ideas and big dreams, it’s hard to deny that it has no shortage of hackneyed tear-jerking scenes that build up to its conclusion. Plus, the fact that many have become familiar with the concept of infection and virus transmission during the two-year COVID-19 pandemic may allow us to either feel an eerie sense of reality or be confused and thrown off throughout the film.


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