December 8, 2022

Steel Rain 2: Summit: Negotiating

One unforeseen legacy of the international disgrace Donald Trump's four years in the White House may be how American presidents are portrayed in foreign films in the near future: In the Cold War drama Steel Rain 2: Summit (2020), for instance, scruffy U.S. President Smoot (Angus Macfadyen) comes across as a not-too-bright blowhard who makes — and tweets! — inappropriate remarks that serve no objective but hiw own self-aggrandizement. Compare him with South Korean President Han (Jung Woo-sung), a squeaky-clean, fawning career diplomat who's like the one dolphin swimming in a pool of sharks. Or North Korea's Chairman (Yoo Yeon-seok) who's grounded by a heartless determination exacerbated by anger issues. Each man has his limitations and his faults but only one comes across as a moron. "USA! USA!"

Not that Yang Woo-seok's political thriller is a sophisticatedly satirical cat-and-mouse game. Characters wear flag pins to remind you who's representing which country; history is explained as if the writing team were periodically mandated by an in-house Korean War scholar to drop data points. As for the central drama, it's strictly Tom Clancy hyperbole when a rogue general (Kwok Do-won) from Pyongyang takes takes our three world leaders for a bank-making submarine ride. Whee! Ka-ching! My final takeaways: The evils of capitalism are now recognized as a global problem; greed continues to be the ugliest of sins; nuclear war remains an option for our worst politicians; the American myth somehow survives despite the staggering pile of evidence to the contrary. One question: Is the movie's temporary Commander-in-Chief (Kristen Dalton) stateside modeled after a hawkish Hilary Clinton?