Monday, April 25, 2022

Escape from Mogadishu--we can learn to co-operate

The promotions for "Escape from Mogadishu" (2021) indicated a lot of action.  My preference is to avoid action movies unless there is some deeper meaning.  A further reading brought to my attention that this involved the North Korean embassy and the South Korean embassy somehow co-operating to flee an insane disaster in Somalia.  In such a breakdown survival is the priority and trust is a necessary tool.

One of the first scenes involves a highway mugging with lots of shooting and the theft of a gift box.  We learn that the South Koreans were on their way to meet with a Somali diplomat and felt confident this would help them get the necessary votes to join the United Nations.  Later we learned that it was the North Koreans who hired thugs to delay that appointment so they could interrupt the process.

A short time later Somali rebels started breaking down gates and had taken over a radio station and shut down communication systems.  Gunshots and dead bodies appear all over as embassy staff scramble to get out of the fire.  The Ambassador cannot reach his head office or anyone who can help with security. 

The Somalian rebels hated foreigners and the diplomats couldn't be sure who would win the battles causing a lot of indecision.  The rebels were trigger happy and we could see pre pubescent boys with guns.  Both the South and North Koreans had wives and children who were getting anxious.

Then the big surprise.  After an effort to reach the Chinese embassy failed, the North Korean ambassador decided his best option was to approach the South Koreans.  Trust is a very fragile thing with staff on both sides feeling contact would be too risky.  However both Ambassadors agreed to get together.  It was a big crowd with very limited food and other resources.

During a raid the rebels managed to snatch bottles of insulin that were important.  It only became noticed when a young child asked for sugar and the mother figured it had to do with diabetes.  Soon both wives understood the problem and it turned out insulin was available.  They decided to pool their resources and lessen their risks.  

They each had different connections, but communication was very limited.  They agreed to split their approaches with the southerners approaching Italy and the northerners to approach Egypt.  The Egyptians were too overwhelmed to help and the Italians were willing to help only South Koreans.  An earlier attempt to suggest the northerners defect failed, but the ambassador decided to pretend they had defected.  It was a point of honor that the South Ambassador had promised to include the North.  Approaching the Italians they were attacked by rebels, but the Italian guards were successful in protecting everyone.  

Then the problem was how to get to the airport.  This resulted in an unusual and spectacular car chase scene with the diplomats using padded cars to protect against snipers.  On board they realize another problem.  Kenya does not recognize South Korea, but the South Korean staff in Kenya wants to separate out the "defectors."  Ambassador Han decides his contingent will leave first and distract allowing the North Koreans to be picked up by their own side.  That is how the movie ends, not meaning to provide a spoiler.  The whole notion of these two severe enemies co-operating stretches credibility.  It would not have been possible without two men trusting each other.

Having said the story is incredible it should be added that it very credibly done.  The story had been constructed after much consultation with diplomats who were in Somalia.  They checked with gun experts to procure the wide range of weapons.  Morocco had strict gun control laws and the Korean crew had to recover spent shells and bullets.  They spent over three months shooting in a Moroccan location that was  configured to mimic Mogadishu. 

The film is in Korean with subtitles, but both embassies are forced to speak English with all others--Somalis, Americans, Europeans and Arabs.  Interesting that English is still the most common link between foreign languages.

Some of the cast and crew that were very effective.

Seung-wan Ryu was director and co-writer.  He never went to film school and claims he learned from watching Hong Kong movies, earning the nickname of "Rookie."  "Crying Fist" (2005) earned him a directors award at Cannes.

Ki-Cheol Lee, the other co-writer has written for "The Thieves" (2012) and "Assassination" (2015).

Jun-seok Bang wrote the music, much of which reflected tension.  He has also composed for "Joint Security Area" (2000) and "The Throne" (2015).  He died very recently; March 26th of this year of stomach cancer.

Young-hwan Choi was responsible for the cinematography.  The car chase scene was spectacular and done from different angles.  He has been involved with "The Thieves" (2012).

Kim Yoon-seok played Han, the South Korean Ambassador.  He has been in "Tazza:  The High Rollers" (2006)"The Happy Life" (2007), "The Chaser" (2008) and "The Thieves" (2012).

Joon-ho Huh played Rim, the North Korean Ambassador.  He is a very revered actor who has drawn high ratings.  He has appeared in "Silmido" (2003) and "Designated Survivor: 60 Days" (2019).   He runs a musical and acting academy in Las Vegas.  Check:

 Man-sik Jeong played one of the diplomats. He played in "A Hard Day" (2014) and "The Tiger" (2015).

 Park Myung-shin played a diplomat's wife.   She has been in "Lady Vengeance" (2005), "Tazza:  The High Rollers" (2006), "Mother" (2009), "Poetry" (2010), and "Train to Busan" (2016),

The war depicted in this film is still going on with lots of refugees.  Some of them came to Canada including rap singer  K'nan.

Somalia has been a great disaster that has affected much of the world.  This film illustrates that enemies can work together.  We need more of this.

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