When a tunnel collapses on Jung-soo (Ha Jung-woo), the ensuing rescue operation becomes the subject of widespread media coverage and frenzy. But days go by, nerves stretch thin, and Jung-soo must struggle for his life in the suffocating darkness alone.

What We Thought:

Myself and Assistant Editor Rocky Maxwell sat down to watch Tunnel together and we both enjoyed it. We are both fans of Asian cinema, but if you aren’t a fan, you should still enjoy this.

It reminded me of films like Buried, The 33, Daylight and 127 Hours. A man gets trapped in a collapsed tunnel with a cell phone, 2 bottled waters and a cake. He’s able to reach the outside world by phone, but further collapsing makes his rescue even more dangerous. I’m not sure if it’s a based on a true story or not, but it references the Chilean miners who were trapped and became the film The 33.

Movies like this need a strong lead to hold your attention throughout. A bad actor and you might not care if they get rescued or not. Jung-woo Ha is pretty great as the man trapped in the tunnel. Not only does he grab your attention, you root for him and the pug dog who is his version of Wilson in Castaway. He interacts over the phone with the man in charge of the rescue, his wife and the media covering the collapse/rescue mission. I also liked him in last year’s The Handmaiden.

What also helps the film is there are enough side characters and side stories to break up the drama of a man trapped. The media covering the event provides lots of characters and comedy. The lead in the rescue is fully committed to the mission at hand and is disappointed when others want to give up. The wife also plays a good role in breaking up some of the scenes.

Like similar films, your own humanity comes into play. How many days and how much money should be spent to rescue one man? How many other lives should be at risk to rescue one man? We also joked while watching that if this is remade for American audiences Matt Damon should play the man trapped because of all the movies he’s in that people have to rescue him.

Movies like Tunnel are titles I tell people to watch when they don’t know where to begin when getting into Asian cinema or don’t think they like Asian films. Sure there are subtitles, but the story itself is universal. It takes shots at media coverage of events like this and how governments and authority figures handle similar situations. The acting, especially the lead, is quite good as is the pacing of the film. Definitely recommended.

Cast & Crew:

  • Doona Bae,
  • Ha Jung-woo
  • Oh Dal-su

Recommended If You Liked:

  • Buried
  • The 33
  • Korean films

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