K-Movie Review: ‘Decibel’ An Action Film With a Unique Subject and Actors’ Brilliant Performances

decibel movie review

Edited by Ye Eun Cho
Translated by Yu Jin Kim

decibel movie review
Credit: Mindmark

Message alarms, the sound of a coffee grinder, the shout that comes after scoring a goal that we’ve all been waiting for — What would happen if these everyday sounds led to an explosive accident? Decibel is an action thriller that follows a terrorist who wants to take over the city with a special bomb that explodes when it detects a certain level of noise and a former Navy commander who becomes the target of the terrorist threat. The terrorist keeps jeopardizing the protagonist by hiding bombs in places where the noise level is difficult to control, such as a soccer field, water park, and playground. What’s worse, he takes the protagonist’s family hostage and keeps the tension coiled tight throughout the film.

The unique subject of the “sound-detecting bomb” is what grabs viewers’ attention. When the noise exceeds a certain level, the remaining time halves, or the bomb explodes. The movie increases immersion by showing a stark contrast between the cheerful looks of the crowd and the extremely anxious-looking Kang Do Young (played by Kim Rae Won) trying to find the bomb as quickly as possible. On the other hand, the scene where Kang Do Young is in sorrow after discovering the terrorist’s message left on the bomb makes the audience sympathize with the character.

Meanwhile, Oh Dae Oh (Jung Sang Hoon), who goes to see a soccer game with his son, brings comedy and laughter in between the story as he unwittingly gets involved in stopping the terror from happening. After recognizing who Kang Do Young is, he approaches him to initiate a conversation but receives an unexpected offer instead – to delay the game time. In response, he rushes to the soccer field. Although he has lived a life trying not to stick out from others, he puts his heart and soul into helping Kang Do Young overcome the crisis. Plus, Kim Seul Gi appears as Oh Dae Oh’s wife, and the two show off some hilarious chemistry.

Except for some brief scenes where Jung Sang Hoon and Kim Seul Gi appear, the story unfolds in a dark and serious way. Here, the way the terror is planned plays a significant part. As soon as a bomb blows up, the phone starts ringing to announce the next terror attack. At times, the movie stirs up more tension by initiating two time bombs at the same time and Kang Do Young doesn’t hesitate to search the city to stop the bomb from exploding. A surprising fact about the film is Kim Rae Won actually did do all the stunts by himself.

decibel movie review
Credit: Mindmark

Lee Jong Suk plays Mensa member and Navy captain Jun Tae Sung who turns out to be the bomb maker. The way he portrays his character by going back and forth between good and evil gives us goosebumps and chills down the spine. Jun Tae Sung is a character that surely fills the screen with his strong presence as he keeps showing both his incredibly compassionate and brutal sides. Toward the end of the film, he draws sympathy from viewers, even as a villain, as he cries out desperately and lets out his repressed emotions.

Cha Eun Woo showed his brilliant acting performance in numerous drama series and increased viewers’ expectations of him as an actor. Although his spoken acting sounded a little awkward occasionally, he did a fantastic job of portraying his character and the desperate emotions he feels. Even though he doesn’t play a major role, he is one of the most important characters that shouldn’t be overlooked in the movie.

Decibel delivers satisfying poetic justice in the movie with the protagonist’s rational judgment in urgent situations. The relatively short 110-minutes-long running time is also its strength, but it was a little too short to fully depict the relationship between Oh Dae Oh and Kang Do Young in detail. Midway through the movie, Kang Do Young draws his line to Oh Dae Oh, and the two seem like business partners. But at some point in the movie, Kang Do Young calls Dae Oh by “you,” puzzling viewers about their relationship. This is where the movie’s flow wasn’t very natural.

The story becomes less exciting toward the end as the terrorist repeatedly directs Kang Do Young to the next bomb. However, the film takes a new turn and shocks viewers with its unexpected plot twist as it reveals what had happened to them in the past. The story, which focused on the terror attack and explosion, turns its direction and reveals the truth behind the past traumatic incident which affected all navy soldiers in the movie. Although such a sudden turn may draw mixed reviews from viewers, the actors, especially Lee Jong Suk, made the storyline a hundred percent plausible with their brilliant actings. Unlike other action movies, where the endings are crisp and clear, this movie ends with some unresolved issues and leaves viewers with an intense and lasting impression, just like how the director intended it to be.

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