Sydney Film Festival Reviewed

We reviewed some of the most buzzed films at this year's festival, including 'Dope', 'Ruben Guthrie', 'Gayby Baby' and 'Holding The Man'. Many were excellent. Some were not.

The Quite Stressful But Amazing Thriller That Will Give You Thalassophobia (Fear Of The Ocean):


Haemoo, dir. Sung Bo Shim

Starring: Kim Yoon-seok, Park Yoochun

Reviewed by: Lauren Carroll Harris

This was the criminally overlooked film of the festival. Co-written and produced by Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-Ho, Haemoo (translated as “sea fog”) is one of those perfect films of its thriller genre, in the same way that Ex Machina was a perfect sci-fi. It’s based on a true story — a fisherman has had a poor haul, is left in financially dire straits, and, like many Coen Brothers anti-hero everymen, makes one really bad decision to get involved in crime: to illegally transport a boat-load of Korean-Chinese asylum seekers. A hectic storm descends, and everything gets insane.

Low in budget and high in concept, Haemoo has all the perfect ingredients for an action film: a contained space (a rickety boat) and a contained time period. As a cinematic experience, the whole thing is so tense and so stressful, but miraculously, the film didn’t numb me like a lot of independent films do. Every frame is like a painting, and beneath the taut action surface there’s a whole lot going on, in terms of the big political ideas of today and the more existential questions of what people will do when pushed to their brink.

A film this good should really have been in the official competition; it’s snub is a testament to festivals’ often arthouse snobbery. Haemoo demonstrates the amazing creative and intellectual possibilities of the action genre, and at a time when the Hollywood majors have essentially stopped making action films with actual humans in them in place of superhero/comic-book madness, that’s really something.

For fans of: Snowpiercer, hecticness, 1990s low-CGI action films, adrenaline, four flat whites in the morning.

Opening in Australia: September 16 on DVD, through Madman (though it legitimately deserves a cinema release)

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