Save the Green Planet
"...be prepared to see one of the absolute most eclectic movies that has ever been made."
Save the Green Planet (2003)
Director: Jang Jun-Hwan
Writer: Jang Jun-Hwan
Producer: Cha Seung-Jae
Cast: Shin Ha-Gyun, Baek Yun-Sik, Hwang Jeong-Min, Lee Jae-Yong, Lee Ju-Hyeon, Gi Ju-Bong
Running Time: 117 min.
Plot: See review below.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
ALEXANDER'S REVIEW: Leave it to South Korean filmmakers to provide us yet another wholly original, oft shocking, slickly produced, torture-filled revenge fantasy in the vain of Old Boy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and The Isle--yet this time with a sci-fi twist. And like 3-Iron, Arahan, JSA and a host of others before and after, Save the Green Planet similarly impressed me with its originality. You just don't get films like these in the States.
But as much as I enjoyed the first 22 chapters on Green Planet's DVD, the last two absolutely ruined my enjoyment of it. The film's first 101 minute, while short in character development, were entertaining with an unusual mix of gore, humor, slapstick, David Lynch-esque plot twists and imagery and innovative camera work. While the extended torture scenes are becoming old-hat in Korean cinema, I still liked the film's ocassional quirks and references to Hollywood classics (2001: A Space Odyssey, for example) and religion. So the actual production and look of the film was enough to keep me interested in the somewhat contrived story. (Essentially, deranged beekeeper kidnaps executive in effort to thwart an alien takeover of Earth. Much torture ensues. Weighty themes are pondered.)
But the last two chapters? Sucked f'ing ASS. I'm not going to say much about them here because I'd end up revealing far too much about the film's ending. I will note, however, for those of you who have seen the film, that Green Planet completely lost my interest immediately after the inspired bit about Earth's dinosaurs. Within seconds, however, I basically just held up my middle finger to the screen and said, "Fuck you, filmmakers." What was, to that point, a quirky film bursting with originality sunk to inexcusable depths by including a series of clips meant to illustrate man's violent nature. Graphic scenes of concentration camps had no place in a film that should otherwise have been a silly diversion that lamely attempted to comment on humanity's viciousness. Instead, we're offered gruesome stock footage of violence that had no business being in a movie that also featured a fat, tutu-wearing tight-rope walker as the psycho dude's lady friend.
Lest you think I'm writing this film off because of a few short clips of depravity, the ensuing scenes are a fucking joke. A FUCKING joke. A complete lack of subtlety. Had the filmmaker's stuck to their obvious X-Files influences, they could have avoided the ghastly, ill-conceived, poorly costumed, heavy-handed, completely ridiculous, silly-as-all-fuck resolution. Be forewarned: You WILL be disappointed.
ALEXANDER'S RATING: Minutes 1-101, an 8.5/10. Minutes 102 to the film's conclusion: 0/10.
OZARK SAVAGE'S REVIEW: Aliens walk among us. Or so Beong-gu (Ha-kyun Shin) believes. And as any drug-addled insane person would do he tells his girlfriend Sooni (Jeong-min Hwang) and proceeds to kidnap the man he thinks is the leader of the aliens (Yun-shik Baek). Then setting about the task of torturing the truth out of him.
First time director Jun-hwan Jeong takes us on a horrifying journey into one man's madness where there is no line between good or bad. He skillfully blends genre after genre like he has been movie making all his life. Although the movie does follow the time tested B-movie plot of "they are among us" it doesn't grow tired or stale from the opening scenes you are dragged into the 'delusion or is it?' story.
The visual touches are often stunning with some gorgeous cinematography. The budget for this movie was around $3 million and comes off looking alot more thanks to the great camera and set work. Korean film-making has come along way in the past few years doing things which Hollywood would never dare touch and this along with films like Old Boy is an excellent example of a growing movie business.
Just a warning the torture scenes are often graphic, although never gratuitous, they may not be everyone's cup of tea.
The Good: Well-acted. Great to watch. Insane.
Overall: Beautifully daring and wonderfully terrifying.
OZARK SAVAGE'S RATING: 9/10
RAGING GAIJIN'S REVIEW: "Save the Green Planet" came out back in 2003 and garnered a lot of attention and praise by the time of its arrival on DVD. The film was highly acclaimed for its irreverent, convention-busting style. Before I sat down to view it, I vaguely worried that it would turn out to be another over-hyped Korean flick that would ultimately let me down, like "Old Boy", which was good but not everything some people made it out to be. Well, it's with great pleasure that I can say "Save the Green Planet" did not disappoint in the slightest. Simply put, it's one of the best films I've seen all year, one of my favorite Korean films, and a bonafide must-see for anyone with an interest in Asian cinema.
The story is deceptively simple but gives way to so many twists and turns. A delusional young man believes that aliens are going to take over the earth, so he kidnaps the CEO of a chemical company who he thinks is secretly an alien planning the destruction of the planet with his superiors. From here, the film blends together the alien conspiracies of "The X-Files" and the quirky paranoia of "Men in Black", as well as the cops-and-killer thrills of "Silence of the Lambs" and the gruesome torture of "The Passion of the Christ". And that only describes a little bit of what the film really does. "Save the Green Planet" is truly an original vision, and not reliant on any Hollywood formula; in fact, it could have never have even been made in Hollywood. Wherever you think the story is going to go, it usually takes a left turn and goes somewhere instead. The movie constantly shocks and surprises the audience for the entire length of its two hour running time.
The direction and cinematography are superb. I'm not sure what the budget of the film was but it looks great. Sometimes the slick look and computer-enhanced camera movements recall the work of David Fincher ("Fight Club"). The director is able to balance a multiple of locations and make them all spectacular, from a low-lit parking garage to breath-taking mountain vistas, and, of course, the main character's torture-chamber. Jang Jun-Hwan has officially emerged as a filmmaker with a keen eye, and a talent to watch.
The performances are stellar all around. The lead character, played by Lee Byung-gu, is believable as living in his warped version of reality, where aliens communicate telepathically through their hair follicles. While Baek Yn-Sik is initially introduced as a greedy corporate-type, he soon draws sympathy from the viewer when he is relentlessly brutalized by his captor. Fortunately, every performance is good; there isn't a weak link in the entire chain.
In fact, if I had to level one complaint against this film, it's that the third act's revelations about Lee Byung-gu's are breezed over too quickly. There is a montage explaining the character's tragic history, but it is edited so rapidly that it is difficult to process everything you're watching. I wish the movie would have slowed down to explain such crucial detail. Of course, this is a fairly small complaint. I enjoyed the film immensely and I wanted to try to absorb it all during the first viewing, which probably isn't possible. But I have the feeling that "Save the Green Planet" is meant to be seen more than once.
Hopefully my paltry complaint only reiterates just how incredible "Save the Green Planet" is. In my mind, it's about as close to perfect as a movie can get. There's humor, there's drama, there's action, there's suspense, there's pathosäyou get the idea. "Save the Green Planet" is a soul-shattering, genre-blending film that is unlike any other. It easily joins the ranks of my favorite Korean movies and it's one of the very best movies I've seen all year.
In other words, if you like Asian cinema, then see "Save the Green Planet" and see it soon. It carries my highest recommendation and the first 10/10 I've ever awarded to a film at City on Fire. This is a landmark Korean movie.
RAGING GAIJIN'S RATING: 10/10
EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: Should you decide to watch Save the Green Planet, be prepared to see one of the absolute most eclectic movies that has ever been made. That's not to say it isn't a good movie, it is. It's better than good, it's brilliant. From what I understood from the trailer and descriptions of the movie I thought this was going to be a simple movie about a guy that everyone believes is insane, but there would be small things that happen to question that presumption. I thought we'd be left with a movie similar to Twelve Monkeys, by the genius that is Terry Gilliam, ultimately questioning "is he insane or isn't he?" Well, this is exactly that type of movie but at the end there seems to be no question about the answer... however, thinking about it a bit, I realize that it can be interpreted in a couple of different ways. Obviously, I'm not going to tell you how it ends so you'll just have to do yourself a favor and watch it.
Everyone thinks that Lee Byung-gu (Shin Ha-kyun [Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, J.S.A.]) is insane. Of course, he doesn't think so; he knows something the rest of us don't. He knows that aliens are plotting an invasion of Earth and it's up to him to stop them, by finding their leader posing as the head of a large corporation, Kang (BaekYoon-shik). So, with the help of his somewhat dim but completely convinced girlfriend, Sooni (Hwang Jung-min), Byung-gu kidnaps Kang, locks him up in his basement, and proceeds to torture him... badly. Meanwhile, the police are searching for Kang, as he's a rather prominent local businessman, but it's down to one ostracized detective and his protégé to follow the right track in the search. The story jumps between leading on that Byung-gu is insane and leading on that he might know something that the rest of us don't, and back and forth many times. This makes it really interesting to watch.
Save the Green Planet is all over the board for genre classification. It's a bit of a comedy (though not a lot of it, at all), a psychological serial killer movie, a goofy science-fiction thriller, a torture-filled horror flick, a drama and a mystery. One moment will be funny and the next moment you'll be cringing at the torture poor Kang is enduring. Which brings me to the torture... there's a lot of it. There is a lot of blood in this movie. It's quite gory. Thankfully, some the torture that goes on isn't painful to watch (for instance, spraying something into Kang's eyes), but some of it is just downright sick. I can't say that this movie is as bloody as a movie like Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, but it is still pretty rough.
I'd say the feel of Save the Green Planet is a very loose mixture of movies like Se7en, Silence of the Lambs, Twelve Monkeys, Psycho, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, 2001: A Space Odyssey and many more. But don't think this movie isn't original, it is. It's completely unique, even though it borrows minor elements, atmosphere or visual style from other movies. Speaking of the visual style, this movie has nearly the best interaction between what is happening on screen and quality CGI of any movie I've ever seen. It was really effective and sometimes fairly amusing.
If you can take bloody, violent movies, put Save the Green Planet high on your list of movies to watch. The ending appears to have been completely unambiguous; however, not only is it really, really funny, but it can also be interpreted in a few different ways which will undoubtedly lead to very interesting discussions. Ultimately, Save the Green Planet couldn't have been better. It is one of the best Korean films I've seen yet.
EQUINOX21'S RATING: 10/10