CANNES ’21: ‘Bi-Sang-Seon-Eon (Emergency Declaration)’ Manages To Avoid Being Just Another Action Film

Still from Bi-Sang-Seon-Eon. A pilot is holding a radio up to his face and talkng into it. In the background, the clouds and blue sky are clear through the cockpit windows.
Still from Bi-Sang-Seon-Eon

Emergency Declaration (Bi-Sang-Seon-Eon) is the latest film by South Korean director Han Jae-rim, starring Kang-ho Song, Lee Byung-hun and Jeon Do-yeon. The film premiered in the In Competition section at Cannes earlier this month. Before the screening I heard many complaints stating it’s “one more movie about planes”. But this time it’s something different, a film that showcases human relationships and how we react to hardships.

The film begins in an airport where a mysterious man, Jin-seok (Yim Si-wan), is trying to implant a capsule to himself under his arm before asking which flights have the most people on board. Not receiving an answer, he joins a father and son, and proceeds to book the exact same flight. Simultaneously, the police find a terrorist attack video that detective In-ho (Kang-Ho Song) takes seriously when they come across an apartment with a dead body and a collection of tapes showing how a deadly virus can progress at speed in humans. Jin-seok is releasing a new, unknown virus on the plane and the aeroplane transforms into a death trap.

The film was not about a plane crash or an engine malfunction but instead about something more terrifying. In the ongoing trauma of a worldwide pandemic, the film hits closer to home and the  relevancy of the subject surprisingly manages to remain captivating. 

The acting throughout the film was strong, especially from newcomer Yim Si-wan in the role of the mysterious Jin-seok. The film maintains a constant tension, built through the strong script that creates a powerful, seamless story that is easy and interesting to follow. But not only that, the film also contains both humorous and emotional parts that help with the pacing and longevity. The fact that it does not contain only one main character is refreshing. In the real world every person matters and the film conveys this feeling, by showing a variety of perspectives on one single, disastrous incident. 

In the aftermath of COVID-19 everyone can find interest in a film that examines the implications of a biological attack, giving a new layer of understanding to the plight of the passengers.

By Sofia Agalioti

Sofia is pursuing Cinema studies in the American College of Greece. She has volunteered on five film festival jury, has made three short films and has taken part in a Creative Ideas Pitching Lab. She has also given a masterclass about the meaning of colour in film.

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