Escape from Mogadishu is the kind of odd couple action movie that fueled the genre for years. While the premise is not as prevalent as it once was, it will occasionally spring up and serve as a reminder of why they were so popular- and in some cases, why they ended up going away. As fun as the genre can be, there is only so much that can be done without the right characters.
This South Korean political thriller is about rival diplomats from North Korea and South Korea that are trapped in Mogadishu, Somalia as civil war rages on around them. With no aid coming in from their governments, the adversaries must rely on each other to escape. Add in the fact that everything is based on a true story, and it sounds like a sure fire winner. At the very least, it should have a decent moment or two.
Escape from Mogadishu is a thrilling ride – literally. The movie concludes with what is probably the best car chase scene of the summer movie season. There is a gravitas that is not found in faster and more furious films thanks to some great camerawork. It is not enough to say the audience is put into the chase. Instead, they are put into an entire moment. Things get more and more tense and even though the outcome is never in doubt, there is still a sense of intrigue and adventure.
As great as the finale is, it is just the capper on top of an already entertaining movie. Just like any good action movie, Escape from Mogadishu manages to find humor in the proceedings. That can be difficult,; this is based on true events that are anything but humorous, but it is still there. As expected, the majority of it comes from the “politics make strange bedfellows’ situation.
This may be where some may take issue with the movie. Escape from Mogadishu does a great job of building characters. There is a law in South Korean that prevents North Koreans from being “glamorized”, but the movie does make an attempt to portray one North Korean in a positive light. Still, the difference between how South Koreans are portrayed is very noticeable. There is a genuine reason behind it, but it may still rub some the wrong way.
Ultimately, the film will impress those who watch it. Along with an unbelievable chase during the climax, the rest of the movie includes strong characters and some funny moments. It is everything a blockbuster during the hotter months of the year should be. Summer always provides plenty of action fare for movie audiences, but few will top Escape from Mogadishu.
The New York Asian Film Festival takes place from August 6 – August 22. Screenings are live and online.
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