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Review: The Flu – H5N1 Breaks Ground Zero

The Flu (감기) is a 2013 South Korean disaster film written and directed by Kim Sung-su, about an outbreak of a deadly strain of H5N1 that kills its victims within 36 hours, throwing the district of Budang in Seongnam, with a population of nearly half a million people into chaos. It stars Jang Hyuk and Soo Ae.

I got intrigued by the movie after watching the top grossing film Train to Busan–South Korea’s first ever zombie film. Train to Busan was a very promising movie considering it was the first of its kind and that the plot, actors and everything else seems of top caliber.

It has shown people that South Korea is also capable in producing something in that area and it has made them a commendable competitor in the film industry. Showing how far they can go to let people know of what they can offer, truly it showed in the film; their artistry, talent and potential to hop onto the wagon.

A few weeks after the great zombie wave that struck us, for some reason the disaster film ‘The Flu’ resurfaced again and people started talking about it again. I am not too sure whether this only happened in our country or in some other countries too, but I can say that ‘The Flu’ also created another bout of frenzy. People are raving about it on and off social media three year after its official release and they have expressed their admiration for the film the same way they did with Train to Busan.

The Cast:

Soo Ae as Kim In-hae
Jang Hyuk as Kang Ji-goo
Park Min-ha as Kim Mi-reu

The Plot: 

A group of immigrants are smuggled inside a shipping container with their final destination being South Korea. Inside the container, one of the immigrants is a carrier for a lethal and highly contagious Virus.

Byung-Ki (Lee Hee-Joon) and Byoung-Woo (Lee Sang-Yeob) drive to the shipping container to release the immigrants. They soon discover that all of the immigrants are dead, except for one man.

Soon, thousands of people become infected every hour by the deadly virus, which kills within 36 hours of infection. The entire suburb of Bundang is quarantined by the government in a desperate attempt to stop the virus from spreading further. Firefighter Kang Ji-Koo (Jang Hyuk) is one of those quarantined. Dr. Kim In-Hae (Soo-Ae) is one of the first responders to the outbreak of the virus. The outbreak becomes even more personal once she suspects her own daughter (Park Min-Ha) is infected by the virus. Firefighter Kang Ji-Koo and Dr. Kim In-Hae frantically work together in a race against time to find a cure.


Similar to many South Korean Disaster films, The Flu depicts how Bundang (the largest and most populous district (gu) of Seongnam, a major city in the Seoul Capital Area, South Korea) becomes the point of severe damage due to the H5N1 epidemic.

A film of harrowing events that creates answers to the ‘what if’ possibilities mixed with intense realism and emotional turn of events that touches sensitive topics on governance and humanism when sudden, inevitable modern pandemics like the Bird Flu, SARS or Ebola hits ground zero.

In relation to the topic, though different in the nature of the cause of the debacle, The Flu has many given similarities to other South Korean disaster films–like ‘Haeundae’, ‘The Tower’, ‘Train to Busan’, ‘Pandora’ and many others–where in it starts with a sudden, unexpected cause of the whole fiasco, continues with the dramatic pass on of the disease among innocent people that will lead to an eventful doomsday (people dying everywhere, an uncontrollable disease that threatens to spread outside Bundang’s borders, a flatline situation with no cure) of mass hysteria. A real disaster that shows the harrowing reality of violence, conspiracy, life and death situations that result from little to no choice events.

Naturally, by saying the aforementioned, as a viewer, you would come to compare these movies and start to learn the cliches. Of course, as you go on you set the bar high and for sure just like me, I see it a bit of a downside for the movie that just like almost every South Korean disaster film, which has the tendency to lean on to the effect of ‘mass hysteria’ to the viewers and the emotional turmoil it’ll bring to the viewers, The Flu has this same theme which either makes it a striking film due to grandiose of production and at the same time  a film comparable to others.

Nonetheless, I would spare a second look at the film due to its horrifyingly beautiful aesthetic. Of course, despite the similarities, there’s nothing really wrong on taking your time watching this kind of film as long as you’re leaning onto its entertainment value. After all, you don’t get a repeat of the real disaster. At least, this kind of movie prepares you for the what if situations. It becomes your ‘eye opener’ of some sorts.

Besides, the movie stars two of the most amazing actors–Jang Hyuk and Soo Ae–who has starred on many other projects and succeeded on moving an audience. Jang Hyuk’s just your kind of hero that’s prickly on the outside, but hardly anything like it on the inside as he tries to swoon Soo Ae’s character in the film. Soo Ae has acted on various roles, this one film depicting the image of a career woman and a single parent to her daughter that will do everything to ensure her child’s safety. What seems to be a personal drama contributes to the resolution and ending of the film to which they save the day and create a better tomorrow.

Additional to all those comments. I’d like to say that at some point in the middle of the story, I was tremendously shook by one of the scenes where in as a solution for the good of the greater population that aren’t affected by the virus, the government decided to–literally–throw in a large pit those who were heavily infected by the H5N1 virus, dead or half-alive by the day. It was like a mass grave and they were to burn everyone as if it was nothing, considering that ‘burning’ is one form of killing the virus and preventing the spread of the flu (since it can spread airborne) and this absolutely horrified me again. Albeit hypothetically thought through, it’s just scary to think it’s possible one day that people can think like that. Nonetheless, it’s frighteningly an on point plot twist that brought out more edge to the story and encouraged progress to an emotionally intelligent conclusion of the film.

I’d give this film 3.5 out of 5 if we’re talking about rating the film.

Give it a shot if you’re certainly intrigued after reading this! 🙂

This post first appeared on The Korean Lass, please read the originial post: here

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Review: The Flu – H5N1 Breaks Ground Zero


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