Haemoo (TIFF 2014 Review)

Dir: Shim Sung-Bo

Haemoo (meaning “Sea Fog”, the film’s original working title) is a hybrid of sorts – a fast-paced, allegorical seafaring adventure that takes a turn towards the grim and gripping around halfway through. The Korean actioner comes from first time director Sung Bo Shim, with producing and co-scripting duties handled by the celebrated Bong Joon-ho (of The Host and Snowpiercer fame). Unpredictability married to strongly wrought (but sometimes broad) characters are Haemoo’s stock-in-trade, and they serve the story well by creating a lasting impression that lingers long after the final reel ends.

Kim Yun-seok portrays the down-on-his-luck Capt. Kang, whose fishing boat, love life and luck have all run aground and seen better days. Desperate and debt-riddled, he makes a last-ditch deal with the local heavy to transport illegal immigrants from China to South Korea. Along for the ride is his ragtag crew, most of whom are given a single defining trait (i.e. naïve, conniving, sex-starved) but are gradually fleshed out over the course of the film. After the crew of the Junjiho is given their share of the earnings and brought into the fold by their captain, they hesitantly set about (more…)