The film contains elements of drama, comedy, horror and political commentary and is very successful at slipping from one genre to another in an instant. One moment Song Kang-ho is doing something silly or odd and the next he is screaming as he is tied down to undergo a lobotomy. The political themes and anti-American stance run throughout the film. The film’s opening idea is loosely based on a 2000 incident in which an American mortician dumped formaldehyde down the drains and into the Han and throughout, the US military are portrayed as uncaring towards the Korean population and willing to usurp the Korean Government to do what it wants, when it wants. The Anti-American theme is further exemplified by the fact that the film was lauded in
The story itself is very good and the family, well defined. As well as the obvious political statement it is a study of a family and each person’s roles within that family. Song Kang-ho (one of my favourite actors) is excellent, playing a completely different type of character to what I’ve seen him do before. Ko Ah-Seong is also very good and seems mature beyond her years. I’m not surprised to read that she won awards for the role. The direction is great with Bong Joon-ho utilizing camera angles that lead you to wonder where the monster is and which are designed to keep you on edge.
When I first saw the monster I thought that it was well designed but that the CGI looked a bit shiny. The more I watched however I realised that that was obviously done on purpose as the monster is predominantly water dwelling and in fact the CGI is very good. There is one sequence in particular when the monster is first spotted in which the GCI and direction come together wonderfully to create a magnificent chase scene. It is unusual in a monster film to be able to see the monster fully early on. In films such as Cloverfield you never get much more than a hint of the monster but here it is visible from the get go and I think that makes for an interesting and brave change.
Overall the film is interesting and exhilarating and manages to fuse different genres and themes. There are laugh out loud moments and times where the film feels very poignant. In addition, Song Kang-ho is a joy to watch.