(ATTN: ADDS quotes from actors in paras 16-19)
By Shim Sun-ah
SEOUL, June 20 (Yonhap) -- Imagine being stuck on an ill-fated flight where a mysterious deadly virus is spreading.
"Emergency Declaration," a forthcoming Korean film starring iconic actors Song Kang-ho, Lee Byung-hun and Jeon Do-yeon, depicts such a frightening scenario, as the country's first aviation-disaster genre film.
The story takes place on a flight, from Seoul to Honolulu, where the captain declares an emergency landing after a terrorist plants a deadly virus and the first victim is dead within hours.
During a press conference in Seoul Monday to promote the film set to open in local theaters in August, writer-director Han Jae-rim said that he intended it to be a thought-provoking movie about people fighting a disaster on top of its attraction as a disaster genre flick.
"I received an offer about 10 years ago. I found the setting and plan for the film project were fairly good at that time but didn't know how to do it," said the director best known for "The Face Reader" (2013) and "The King" (2017). "And then, unfortunately, there were many big and small disasters in Korean society over the past 10 years. As I brokenheartedly watched them, a certain idea came up to my mind and then I thought I should do this project."
He stressed he made efforts to shed light on how people fight the disaster and their emotions from overcoming it or suffering a defeat. He hoped audiences would not simply consume his movie as entertainment.
The film garnered wide attention from Korean movie fans from the initial stage of production for its star-studded cast.
Among the cast members are two Cannes-winning actors Song Kang-ho, Jeon Do-yeon; Lee Byung-hun, a top actor who was an award presenter at last year's Cannes Film Festival; as well as Kim Nam-gil, Im Si-wan, Kim So-jin and Park Hae-joon.
When asked how it was possible to have so many A-listers in the same film, the director said even he could not believe it at first.
"Actually, the actors here are symbolic figures of the Korean film industry as well as globally and others are also popular enough to take lead roles in other big-budget films. Any director would like to cast all of them," he said. "So, I couldn't believe that those people are in my film and kept feeling confusion while shooting it. I was confused whether I was shooting one film or seven different films at a time. I felt honored and appreciated it."
Han said, looking at the scenes after the shoot, he was impressed by the actors' outstanding performances. "There are a lot of passengers on the plane who are not here, but if you watch the movie, their acting will also be memorable," he added.
Song Kang-ho, who was named best actor for his performance in "Broker" at this year's Cannes, plays In-ho, a veteran police detective who is on board to track down a terror suspect after being tipped off about his plan to attack the Hawaii-bound plane. Jeon Do-yeon, who won best actress for her performance in director Lee Chang-dong's "Secret Sunshine" at 2007 Cannes, plays Suk-hee, minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport who struggles to find out the best way to protect Korean citizens from the terrorist attack.
Park Hae-joon's character is Tae-soo who has to make "a cool-headed decision" to save the nation as the chief of a crisis management center at the presidential office.
Lee Byung-hun plays the role of Jae-hyuk, a father with aviophobia who is on board to go get treatment for his sick daughter. Im Si-wan plays Jin-seok, a mysterious young man who boards the ill-fated plane while wandering around Incheon International Airport without a destination.
Kim Nam-gil and Kim So-jin play deputy pilot Hyeon-soo and chief flight attendant Hee-jin, respectively.
"Apart from the genre elements, it sophisticatedly and maturely expressed thoughts about family, neighbors and the community, which we usually don't think deeply about in our everyday lives. I was glad to be in such a film for this reason," Song said.
Lee said he was attracted by the script not just because it was tense and interesting as a disaster genre flick but also due to it being thought-provoking.
Jeon said she was fond of the script, too, but what she liked the most about the movie was the director's good intention to make it.
"I hope this movie can console people who are hurt while undergoing big and small disasters," she added.
The film is set to open in local theaters in August. It was selected for the Out of Competition section of the 74th Cannes Film Festival in 2021.