21 June 2022

K Movie Review: May 18 (2007) 3.9 || 3.75

This was another film Oppa's been advocating (read: bugging me) for. And since we're in between dramas right now, this was the perfect time for us to watch it. Unfortunately, it was quite underwhelming and its only saving grace for me was its historical value. 


May 18 tells the story of the May 18, 1980 massacre in Gwangju. Then General Chun Doo Hwan (who went on to become South Korea's president) wanted to neutralize the alleged "rebels" with military forces. The people of Gwangju, however, did not go down without a fight. The main lead was a taxi driver, Kang Min Woo (Kim Sang Kyung of What Happens to My Family), who lived with his younger brother high school student Jin Woo (Lee Joon Gi of Moon Lovers Scarlet Heart Ryeo, She Was Pretty, and Hotel Del Luna whom I did not recognize). Min Woo started out indifferent to the chaos around him until his brother was killed when the latter joined one of the protests. Min Woo became even more invested in the fight against the dictatorship since his girlfriend Park Shin Ae (Lee Yo Won) was a nurse who tended to the people hurt in the rallies. And Min Woo's boss and Shin Ae's dad, Park Heung Soo (Ahn Sung Ki), was a retired military officer who rallied the people to band together to fight the soldiers sent to wipe them out. The movie takes us through how the people of Gwangju valiantly fought off their oppressors. 


This one will be short because, unfortunately, the movie was not able to capture my interest the way the other historical films we watched did. 

The main problem was probably the way the movie did not properly build up the story behind the massacre. I'm fortunate that Oppa read up on this stuff so he could explain the background to me. But someone unfamiliar with the story would have a hard time following. Why was the government suspicious of people in Gwangju? Why did the people of Gwangju resist? Why did more Gwangju residents join the movement against the government later on? I believe two hours would have been sufficient time to give at least a bit of background on this. Something written shown at the start of the film would have been okay too. 

Then there's that issue with the film being overly dramatic. It was very conscious about appealing to the emotions of the viewers, which overpowered/overshadowed the movie's main purpose of highlighting the atrocities that happened at that time. For instance, Min Woo was able to retrieve his brother's body without getting shot even if there was shooting all around him. The same with Heung Soo saving Min Woo with his truck. Then there's Shin Ae and the doctor leaving the hospital where they were badly needed to drive the ambulance and go to ground zero where they were obviously going to be in danger. Then there's the bromance between the taxi driver (Park Chul Min of The Killer's Shopping List and So I Married an Anti-Fan) and his passenger (Park Won Sang of Little Forest and Our Beloved Summer) which I did not enjoy at all. They were mostly over the top, probably in the film's attempt to make things a bit lighter. 

And the ending seemed like a suicide mission to me. It seemed as if they didn't really plan on at least surviving or saving the most number of people. It was as if they were just waiting for the troops to massacre them. 

And I'm not sure if it was a story-related problem, but we found most of the actors underwhelming too. 

In the end, even if the film did teach me stuff about the massacre, it unfortunately failed to evoke strong feelings in me the way A Taxi Driver and 1987: When the Day Comes did. 

Oppa says...3.9.

Noona says...3.75.