February 22, 2009

The Host: Honey, I Lost the Kid... to a Mutant Monster

Government. Military. Big business. The medical establishment. The media. Which is the most inhumane, the most corrupt, the most evil? While The Host's central family unites to track down the aquatic Godzilla who's kidnapped their daughter (Ko Ah-sung), director Bong Joon-ho hilariously castigates the movie's true villains -- those power-crazed officials who keep getting in their way. Yet The Host is hardly some diatribe of antiestablishmentarianism; Bong is critical of his core characters, too: the slacker dad (Song Kang-ho), his self-defeating sister (Bae Du-na), his bossy brother (Park Hae-il) and the lovable grandfather (Byeon Hie-bong). Everyone does stupid things, no matter what your walk in life. To err is human. But what's also human are the brave, crazy acts that love can inspire us to. What elevates The Host from Kaiju camp to exceptional monster movie is how Bong uses familial love -- as opposed to romantic -- to propel his four squabbling yet noble family members to the very bowels of the Earth. You could say their rescue efforts fail but the final image of a re-configured family of survivors is nothing if not uplifting. Song's performance as the endearing doofus dad is frankly unforgettable.

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