January 20, 2020

Ashfall: Disaster as Reality

It occurred to me when watching Kim Byung-seo's and Lee Hae-jun's Ashfall that there are only two kinds of movies worth making right now. One concerns exposing the truth on an at-least-somewhat-political scale. The other involves confronting catastrophes on an international level. In the first category, we've got movies like Dark Waters and even First Reformed. In the second group, we've got films like... well, like Ashfall. This action-packed disaster film involves a series of volcanic eruptions — inevitably caused by mankind's ongoing decimation of the planet — that threaten to destroy about fifty percent of the Korean peninsula. That the explosions are all taking place in North Korea, naturally makes any potential intervention that much more complicated.

Who will save the day? Certainly not the arrogant American industrial-military complex! So can anyone? Or, counter to the one hero saves all narrative, are a whole bunch of people going to be called upon to work together in order to pull off one risky solution? If you're hoping for once it's the latter, good news: Ashfall involves a whole crew of people — a reluctant professor (Ma Dong-seok, cast against type), a political prisoner (Lee Byung-hun), and a bomb-defuser (Ha Jung-woo) as well as a number of women in important roles like a high-ranking government official (Jeon Hye-jin) and a particularly effective female soldier who sadly does not currently get a credit on IMDb. Each of these players must dig deep, break some rules, jeopardize their careers, and risk their lives in order to potentially accomplish what's a long shot to begin with. And no, not everyone survives.