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Title: Tunnel

Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :1star:

HTS Overall Score:70

When I saw the press release for “Tunnel” my immediate reaction was excitement as I thought it was the South Korean horror film “Tunnel 3D” that was released back in 2014 and you can’t keep me away from Asian horror films. I was a little disappointed when I read the press release more thoroughly and noticed it was a 2016 disaster film, but was immediately intrigued once more when I saw Seong-hun Kim’s name attached as the writer and director. Especially with me loving his 2nd feature film, “A Hard Day” so much. Interestingly enough, “Tunnel” is the director’s most commercial effort to date, delving into the age old “disaster movie’ genre with gusto and blending in the typical Korean bent for melodrama as well. The movie pretty much describes itself by the back and the title, as the main character gets trapped in, of all things, a tunnel. The first thing that probably is going through your head is muscle bound Sylvester Stallone using his testosterone infused acting to get out of a water-logged tunnel in “Daylight”. Well, it’s KIND of the same, but really more a blend of that scenario with the Hispanic film “The 33”.

I really don’t have to describe much here, being that the film is pretty self-explanatory. Kia motors salesman Jung-soo (Jung-woo Ha) is on his way home to see his daughter and wife when a giant under the mountain tunnel collapses on top of the man, trapping him under thousands of tons of rock and earth. Barely able to get cell phone signal, Jung-soo manages to get an SOS out to the authorities and a giant rescue operation is under full swing. Trapped with nothing but a birthday cake and 2 small 500ml bottles of water, the car salesman has to wait it out for an estimated 7 days while the authorities (overseen by a man named Dae-kyoung, played by Dal-su Oh) dig the poor guy out.

The only thing is, it’s not going to take 7 days. With limited water and no food besides a sugary whipped cream cake, Jung-soo is hoping for a miracle. A miracle that really needs to come to fruition FAST when the man finds out another car with a paralyzed young woman and her dog Tengie (a cute little pug) are trapped below, requiring his resources to be cut in fact. Sadly that miracle doesn’t come as the drillers run into problem after problem, stretching out his rescue time to astronomical proportions.

Seong-hun does a stellar job at lifting up the predictable thriller moments of the film to a higher level with his deft wit and use of black humor throughout the film. Even the cuteness of the little pug and the slight slapstick moments with the eaten cake are blended in seamlessly with the angst and melodrama of the Korean thriller. With that being said, this must have been a hard sell for the studios, as it really just regurgitates much of the same tropes that make up every other disaster movie on earth, especially one with a trapped person underground. Jung-soo is trapped underground with only a few small elements to survive, and the rest of the world tries to dig him out. Except things don’t go exactly as planned and the hopeful rescue of the poor guy looks less and less hopeful. Insert sad wife, sacrifices along the way, and a man who refuses to give up no matter what the higher authorities tell him. Then, of course, end on a happy note as he finally makes it to the surface.

Despite the overly cliched tropes and well-trodden plot points, the acting of Jung-woo and Doona Bae (best known of “Cloud Atlas” and “Sense8”) are flawless. Jung-woo is perfect as the trapped car salesman, and Doona Bae gives an incredibly emotive performance as the grieving and desperate wife. All clichés aside, watching her is one of the highlights of the whole experience, and that’s saying a lot considering how on fire Jung-woo Ha is right now after finishing up Park Chan-wook’s “Handmaiden” and the period piece film “Assassination” (also released by Well Go USA).


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video :4stars:
“Tunnel” sadly doesn’t come to home video with a high definition release, but the 480p Blu-ray is more than satisfactory to showing off the claustrophobic movie. There are some brightly lit scenes interspersed through the movie, but most of the time is spend in the bowels of the tunnel itself, with dusty greys and browns with artificial yellow lighting as the only source of illumination. Fine detail is solid, but never exemplary, and banding occurs around the beams of flashlights etc. The brighter “outside” the tunnel shots tend to look the best, and are given a cool blue looking grading as well. There’s a bit of softness that is above and beyond the normal for a 480p film being projected on a 120 inch screen, which sometimes gives the darkness a murky and hazy look (which is partially due to the mass amounts of dust and debris in the area, but also the cinematography giving it that hazy look.

Audio :4stars:
“Tunnel” is given both a 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Digital track in its original Korean dialect, and the track is a show stopper for sure. Large quantities of time are spent in the darkness and claustrophobic confines of the tunnel, which gives for a decidedly front heavy experience there, but when the tunnel is collapsing, or the drill popping through, we are given over to a wild and crazy ride that has a fantastic dynamic range to it. Even in the tunnel we get to hear some great directional and distanced sounds as Jung-soo is scrabbling around knocking things over and the like. Rocks bounce off of walls and from above with ferocity and directional acuity, and the LFE can be very punished. The sense of isolation and claustrophobia is accentuated with the panicked dialog and the slightly echoey sound as Jung-soo whispers in the small confines of the car. My only complaint comes from the bitrate being stuck at 384kbps instead of 448 and the vocals can sometimes sound a little thin.

Extras :1star:

• Theatrical Trailer
• Well Go USA Trailers

Overall: :3.5stars:

“Tunnel” has very good intentions and tries its best to be an emotional and intense thriller, but it suffers from being all too predictable and ends up sputtering about half way through the film as all of the standard disaster movie tropes start to run out. The ending is inspiring and uplifting, but that’s a little bit too late for the mediocre thriller. I really did enjoy the film, as it had some unique cultural tweaks to it that made “Tunnel” different than many other disaster flicks, but ultimately it was just a little bit too long and under developed to be anything more than a decent rental. Audio and video deserve a positive nod, but the overall I would have to say that it just doesn’t rise above anything we haven’t already seen in every other disaster movie. Worth a fun rental at the least, though.

Additional Information:

Starring: Doona Bae, Jung-woo Ha, Sang-hee Lee
Directed By: Seong-hun Kim
Written By: Seong-hun Kim
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 MPEG2
Audio: Korean: Dolby Digital 5.1, Korean DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: NR
Runtime: 126 Minutes
DVD Release Date: May 2nd, 2017

Buy Tunnel on DVD at Amazon

Recommendation: Fun Rental

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