November 28, 2013

Antarctic Journal: Get to the Point (of Inaccessibility, That Is)

I'd never heard of a "point of inaccessibility" before Antarctic Journal. Evidently, the term refers to a geographical location that's extremely difficult to access, often because of its distance from the coast. Reaching such a landmark is a source of pride for explorers because it's so challenging. For the general public, however, there's little to recommend a POI (as it's sometimes called). The same could be said for Antarctic Journal, the pseudo-horror flick by director Yim Pil-sung (and co-written by auteur Bong Joon-ho). It's for extremists only. In other words, if you're committed to being a completist and seeing every movie starring Song Kang-ho then then you're eventually going to have to watch this dud about a South Korean crew searching for the South Pole's POI.

Which isn't to say that Song isn't good. As the merciless captain who hallucinates memories of his son's suicide when he isn't letting his crew members die one by one, the actor keeps the action grounded, which isn't easy given how much appears to be shot in front of a green screen. Keeping it real can only take you so far though, and what is real, really? Not the sudden nose bleed that he gets at one point. Not the novice (Yu Ji-tae) who he cavalierly bequeaths the ominous British expedition diary that they find in the snow. Not the cynical cohort (Yun Je-mun) who can't persuade anyone how crazy the captain obviously is. Not even the cheerful radio operator (Kang Hye-jeong) who flies off in a search helicopter when captain and company "vanish into thin air." I'm not saying, Antarctic Journal needed to be a naturalistic take on a devastating expedition, but shots of a frozen eyeball and a ghostly woman's hand come across as pretty random and just leave me wondering whether the film is about to take a serious left turn. Maybe it did. Over and over. Which is another way of saying Antarctic Journal just goes in circles. And made me rethink my initial plan to curate a Song movie marathon, despite how wonderful I still think he is.

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