Plot: Captain Kang (Kim Yoon-seok) is a weathered fisherman who has fallen onto hard times and things seem poised to get even worse, as his once impressive vessel is battered and on the brink of collapse. But he feels such a connection to the ship that he is driven to repair it, even though such repairs could only extent the ship’s usefulness for a short while at best. As financial prospects are bleak, he is open to drastic measures to keep his operation alive and that leads him to accept a smuggling assignment, to transport a group of Chinese immigrants into Korea. This is illegal of course and carries immense risk, but Kang is desperate and knows this could be his one and final option to earn the cash he needs. But when forces seem to align to disrupt Kang’s plans, can he keep his crew under control, navigate some unexpected interference from nature, and keep his shipment undetected?
Entertainment Value: Sea Fog is a tense, atmospheric thriller rooted in real life events, with Bong Joon-ho as producer and Shim Sung-bo in the director’s chair. The first thing that stands out about Sea Fog has to be the visuals, as this is a beautiful movie that is often bathed in shadows and even routine exposition driven scenes are shot with a striking sense of cinematic style. The visuals do more than please the eyes however, as the atmosphere and mood benefit from the dark, haunting visual presence and that adds a lot to the movie. In truth, Sea Fog feels like a dramatic force of nature, as that tense atmosphere is so strong and keeps you reeled in. Just when it eases up for a short while to let you catch your breath, another wave crashes in and you’re sucked right back into the intense environment. I was riveted by Sea Fog, as even the early exposition is interesting and accompanied by potent visuals, then once the ship sails, things rarely let up for longer than a few breaths. The movie blends elements of drama, thrillers, and even action movies to great results, so don’t overlook this and assume it is a slow or dull drama, as that isn’t the case at all.
While the general atmosphere in Sea Fog is quite intense and forceful, even that pales in comparison to the performance of Kim Yoon-seok, who is just about the most intense person ever captured on film. His performance here is superb and demands attention, as he is raw and beyond intense, but it never feels artificial or over the least in the least, which is no small feat. While he is always a top notch performer, his work here is excellent even by his usual high standards. His presence drives Sea Fog and when he shifts, the movie shifts in response and he carries this film with immense skill and an unforgettable effort. The rest of the cast is quite good as well, but it is hard to keep pace with such a powerful presence, of course. Han Re-yi and Park Yoo-chun are the other standouts, both excellent performances that showcase remarkable emotional depth and that is so important here. I think Sea Fog is a fantastic movie, a dark and tense thriller that takes some unexpected turns and is headlined by one of the best performances I’ve seen in a while. The visuals, atmosphere, and Kim Yoon-seok are enough to earn this one a super high recommendation, but the entire movie is well crafted and delivers a stunning experience.
The Disc: 88 Films presents Sea Fog in a gorgeous HD treatment, a pristine and refined image that yields impeccable detail and depth. The movie features some beautiful visuals and this transfer makes sure those visuals shine. This could have been a problematic movie, given the dark visual design, but detail is always strong and contrast is spot on throughout. A fantastic, polished visual effort from 88 Films here. The original Korean language track is present, as well as optional English subtitles. The extras include a reel of visual effects footage (which are pretty much seamless in the movie itself) and an interview with film writer Jean Noh, who spends about eleven minutes on the film’s production, Korean cinema, and Bong Joon-ho himself.