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Ashfall
白头山 : 火山浩劫

Format(s) Available
DIGITAL
Opening Date
02 Jan 2020
Rating
PG13 Some Violence and Coarse Language
Runtime
128 mins
Language
Korean with English & Chinese subtitles
Genre
Action, Disaster
Director
Lee Hae Jun, Kim Byung Seo
Cast
Lee Byung-hun, Ha Jung-woo, Ma Dong-seok, Jeon Hye-jin, Bae Suzy
Synopsis
In the face of a disaster that will engulf both North and South Korea, a mission is put into action to stop a super volcanic eruption.

An unexpected eruption of Korea’s tallest volcano, which straddles the China-North Korea border, leaves the Korean peninsula in shambles. Seismologists warn this is only the preliminary eruption -- A devastating supereruption is still to come.  

Yoo-kyung (JEON Hye Jin) is Chief Secretary to the President of South Korea. While her team puts together an emergency countermeasure for the impending national crisis, she meets renowned Korean-American seismologist, Bong-rae (Don LEE). Bong-rae presents a theory that could possibly stop the volcanic explosion. Despite a very small possibility of success, the two decide to set the plan into motion.  

In-chang (HA Jung Woo) is only days away from completing his service with the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit of the South Korean Army. An accident during a missile dismantling operation leaves him in charge of the team, and he is called away to his last mission before returning home to his wife, Ji-young (BAE Su Zy).  

In-chang’s team secretly reaches out to a North Korean elite officer, Jun-pyong (LEE Byung Hun), who holds the key to the mission to stop the volcanic eruption. However, Jun-pyong keeps acting erratically. 

With doom looming, everyone must work together to avoid imminent devastation.
Reviews
By Flora  26 Dec 2019
Ashfall carefully divides action, drama and comedy into one. It’s no masterpiece (it’s hard to top a Hollywood disaster film with a fraction of the budget), but it sets out to produce a suspenseful and heartwarming story, thanks to the performances of the brilliant actors
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South Korean disaster movie ‘Ashfall’ is not just about the eruption of Mount Paekdu, the stratovolcano located on the Chinese-North Korean border. More than just showing the build-up of the catastrophe and the aftermath of the disaster, the film makes a point to add in familial ties, political boundaries and patriotism in the mix. 

Produced by ‘Along with the Gods’ Kim Yong-hwa and directed by Lee Hae Jun and Kim Byung Seo, the film is packed with a star-studded cast including Lee Byung-hun, Ha Jung-woo, Ma Dong-seok, Jeong Hye-jin and Bae Suzy. Mount Paekdu straddles the border between China and North Korea and is known as the largest active volcano in the Korean Peninsula. It’s eruption, which actually happened in the 10th century, known as the ‘Millennium Eruption’ was one of the most powerful in recorded history. 

The film starts off quickly with the first eruption, causing a series of earthquakes in downtown Seoul. Volcanologist predicts that there will be three more blasts in the new few days, each one causing more damage than its previous. The last eruption is said to be so impactful that the entire Korean Peninsula will be in shambles . Seismologist Professor Robert Kong Bong-rae (Ma Dong-seok), an American citizen who was persuaded by Yoo-Kyung (Jeon Hye Jin) to remain in Korea for a few days to continue to improve his theory that could possibly stop the impending volcanic explosion. To do that, he would need nuclear explosive which is only achievable by stealing it from the North.

Meanwhile, In-chang (Ha Jung-woo), a father-to-be is just days away from completing his service with the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit of the South Korean army. As the team leader of the technical crew, he is tasked to lead a team to North Korea to assist in dismantling and transporting nuclear chemicals back home. But an unexpected accident left him in charge of the entire operative, including capturing one of Korea’s wanted criminal and a former North Korean spy, Lee Joon-pyeong (Lee Byung-hun). Only with Lee’s help to locate the nuclear explosives in North Korea that the team will be able to avert the crisis. The team may not be skilled or trained, but they are determined to save their country no matter the obstacles thrown at them.

One aspect which I did not expect to see in a disaster movie like Ashfall is the comedy. Perhaps we as an audience have been too used to what a disaster movie would be that I actually found this Korean film rather funny - not in a bad way. Ha as In-chang and his team of underdogs is the perfect storyline of misfits having the last laugh. They aren’t particularly skilled in killing nor fighting - therein lies the comedy - but is the team that audiences root for. 

Lee is no doubt one of the few Asian faces we see in Hollywood blockbuster movies, having appeared on G.I. Joe, Red 2, Terminator Genisys and The Magnificent Seven, and he delivers a clean and impressive performance, not forgetting the suave action sequences that proves his ability as an action star. Lee and Ha both have great chemistry with each other, often bouncing off each other’s energy and it is fascinating to watch two grown men bickering over the most pettiest argument. 

Ma brings his trademark lovable nerd-looking character to the table as the often frustrated seismologist looking to find an answer. His backstory as a Korean-American in Korea and his dilemma in ‘picking a side’ is definitely playing up Ma’s fluency of English. It’s a pity there aren’t many action sequences from Ma (just think of him in ‘Train to Busan’) and Bae Suzy, who plays In-chang’s heavily pregnant wife, the vfx is worthy of a mention. 

Ashfall carefully divides action, drama and comedy into one. It’s no masterpiece (it’s hard to top a Hollywood disaster film with a fraction of the budget), but it sets out to produce a suspenseful and heartwarming story, thanks to the performances of the brilliant actors.
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