January 21st, 2022
MOVIE: ESCAPE FROM MOGADISHU
STARRING: KIM YOON-SEOK, JO IN-SUNG, HUH JOON-HO, PARK KYUNG-HYE
DIRECTED BY: RYU SEUNG-WAN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The tempo of Escape From Mogadishu is upbeat and always moving. It’s a story about survival and although that is the major focal point, director Ryu Seung-wan also reveals the never ending difficulty of diplomacy. Based on the true story in 1991, when war-torn Somalia became a zone of fighting, between rebels and government soldiers, and caught in the middle were diplomats of North and South Korea. Amidst the chaos, Escape From Mogadishu involves the two groups of people, both in situations that increasingly grow chaotic, and taking us along the ride to reveal how setting differences aside is more important than death.
The first half involves the diplomacy side; We’re introduced to Kang Dae-jin (Jo In-sung), a counselor for the South Korean government, arriving to help advise their diplomats in meetings with the Somalian government, with hopes they will be recognized by the rest of the UN Council. He’s a man playing both sides of the game, hoping to grease the wheels of local militants of Somalia, and help Han Shin-sung (Kim Yoon-seok) as the lead representative. On the other side are the North Koreans, led by Rim Yong-su (Huh Joon-ho), who seem to be doing things in a more corrupt way, bribing military leaders and besting the South Korean delegates at any turn. But when a remedial driver for the South Koreans is murdered by a Somalian general, this is what sets the people of Somalia off, creating mass chaos everywhere. Water is cut off, buildings set on fire, bullets flying, and now the two consollates are left with the question: stay put, hope for rescue- most likely die- or run for survival? They choose the latter and once they are on the move, they are diving into the destruction.
In terms of comparison, Escape From Mogadishu is somewhat relatable to Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, where survival seems impossible, but unlike Black Hawk, this paces between the race to safety and the strategy in-between. There’s no real main character as well, with the script co-written by Ryu Seung-wan and Lee Ki-cheol, which focuses on merging the groups, the North Korean delegates in a place of desperation, asking the South Koreans for shelter. While the South Koreans must find the ability to trust a nation of people that have hated them, been their enemy, and failed to recognize them at all.
In the third act, that is where the narrative shifts to the two groups separating, a strategy out of necessity to survive. It’s similar in line with J.A. Bayona’s The Impossible, about groups disconnected, and through sheer will, they venture into the unpredictable. With the help of the Italian consulate, they are able to acquire enough cars to fit both groups. The plan is for the North Koreans to go to the airport, and South Koreans to make it back to the Italian consulate. With the help of duct tape and hardcover books, they strap the cars with whatever literature they have, racing through the streets, bullets flying, books exploding, in a terrifying race to the end. Arguably, without the last twenty minutes Escape From Mogadishu would be missing that stroke of energy, but it’s still a remarkable true story, with an authentic production that submerges us into the chaotic moment.
The final chapter for Escape From Mogadishu is the way Ryu Seung-wan finds a way to make a scary, real-life moment have a narrative arc. Beginning with two countries, two packs of representatives having different beliefs and views of one another, and then bonding them together in a moment of peril. There’s a deeper conversation to be had about the politics of the time. That’s not the story being told. Escape From Mogadishu is a sweaty, intense thriller, putting politics to the side, and survival at the center.
ESCAPE FROM MOGADISHU IS NOW AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL, BLU-RAY, AND DVD FROM WELL GO USA ENTERTAINMENT
Written by: Leo Brady