Concrete Utopia Review
Here’s my Concrete Utopia review and directed Um Tae-hwa and topbilled by Lee Byung-hun, Park Seo-joon and Park Bo-young. Opens September 20!
The film is set after a cataclysmic earthquake that destroys most of Korea except for one apartment complex. There the survivors learn to live in a harsh world and thrust the leadership role of Yeong-tak (Lee Byung-hun) a stranger in the apartment who made a big splash when he saved a burning apartment unit. The POV characters are young couple Min-seong (Park Seo-joon) and Myeong-hwa (Park Bo-young) who initially comply and do their roles in the community until they are forced to rethink their decision when Yeong-tak begins being sus about certain things.
The film is highly engaging and entertaining albeit a little depressing so there’s your warning already. It was beautifully done even if the subject matter is a little too dark for my taste. Themes of blind loyalty, human ethics and other philosophical stuff are also present throughout the film and it’s definitely something that could have made put the film in different paths had they wanted to diverge from the source material.
I kinda of relate this with Game of Thrones for certain aspects namely the politics and the surprise deaths of certain characters.
In terms of visuals, the movie did pretty good most of the stuff were practical effects but for those CG heavy scenes, it was magnificent. Two thumbs up for those scenes where we see the damage and death that occurs while the earthquake happens with one POV character giving us a look and showing us a deeper understanding of what loss means.
Then there’s the cast. I cannot stress how good this cast is starting with Lee Byung-hun who played the community’s leader. While we don’t see him be this tyrant we’re used to see in other similar films, he comes off as unhinged and very scary. There’s actually one scene that he showcases this side and if I were that kid, I’d probably run back out rather than encounter him again. I’ve seen a couple of Byung-hun’s Korean movies as well as Iris but this is something new to behold. The man’s versatile and works pretty damn good as a story’s villain. Although as the story progresses, you understand why he’s that way and what he went through to be where he is.
Then there’s Park Seo-joon who plays the POV character. We see him try his best to be a good and upstanding member of the society that they built turning a blind eye to the evils that they are committing. Then towards the third act, he realizes the lesson that the film is trying to preach, that people still need each other in times of calamity and it’s only when we’re really helping that we see the good.
Park Bo-young was also good here playing Park Seo-joon’s wife, she’s the key player in the downfall of their community’s leader. And she acted perfectly both as a rebel and as a woman with something to fight for and with a strong moral compass. She’s the film’s personification of hope for humanity as she’s one of the few voices of reason in an underwise mean and cruel world.
There are other reviews that state that the film has drama but it’s not the typical K-Drama level where when you’re sucked into it, you cry. Far from, its human drama and one that is one inch to the left of what could happen when WE find ourselves in that situation.
Trigger warning is also abound for gore and violence and references to cannibalism but really the unsettling thing here is the cruelty portrayed onscreen. One particular scene that left me a little worn out was that scene where the community’s search party find a fully-stocked store owned by a family that managed to survive the earthquake. For the group, they were merely searching for food for their community but if you take time to switch perspective, you’ll see the horror of a bunch of armed men knocking on your door ready to do some harm if you don’t give them your supplies; consider too that you have to keep your own family alive and survive in this god-awful nightmare scenario.
If I have any gripe about the film is that it was too clean with the depiction of the outside world plus it needed a little more oomph in terms of how cruel the apartment people were when they began their “society”. It was one thing to say that they were becoming evil but it was another to really show how mean they’ve become.
Concrete Utopia is tragic and depressing but ends with a glimmer of hope for the characters and for the viewers. It reinforces the idea of the classic adage “It’s easy to be a human being but harder being human”. Pretty deep and dark stuff but the payoff’s pretty good.
“Concrete Utopia” is set for release Sept. 20. distributed by Columbia Pictures Philippines!