It is difficult to explain the film “Emergency Declaration” because it is about five movies jammed into one. On one hand, the film is a disaster movie, on another is a terrorist attack, on another is a race against time, on another it’s an international geopolitical thriller, and it is also a story of selfish heroism.
The South Korean disaster thriller is a film that tries to be too much and none of it is defined. A movie that is in desperate need of an identity, “Emergency Declaration” begins as a story based on the threat of a terrorist attack. Local police and state agents are on high alert after a threat surfaces on the internet claiming that a plane is going to be the target of an attack today. An unhinged man sneaks a biological weapon on a plane and it infects everyone onboard. 40% of those injected die within the first hour, while everyone else will soon suffer the same fate.
The South Korean government tries to help the passengers of the plane, the plane is causing International conflict between the United States and Japan. With no foolproof vaccine to distribute, the government wonders if it’s safe enough to bring the passengers back to South Korea and risk infecting the entire country.
South Korea’s attempt at crafting their own big-budget disaster movie suffers from biting off more than it can chew. The movie has a 2 1/2 hour runtime caused by inserting too many plot points. The opening act of the film plays off more of the police drama as officers work to investigate and stop an attack. One of the bad tropes of South Korean cinema is creating villains that are over-the-top and cartoonish in a movies where the tone is far more serious.
Jin-seok, played by Si-wan Yim, is supposed to be an intelligent scientist who went rogue and ended up killing most of his coworkers, however, his erratic behavior and personality make it hard to believe that anyone would have not seen the red flags here.
The pseudo-protagonist Jae-hyuk (Lee Byung-hun) plays the role of a father traveling to Hawaii with his daughter, whose in the film because they need someone with experience in flying with the pilot beginning to die. Once the villain is removed from the equation the threat becomes the virus that plays a lot of parallels to the covid outbreak despite the fact that this virus is far more deadly.
The story then progresses to a game of international politics where multiple countries play political football with the Innocents on the plane. This leads to multiple moral questions including the people on the plane coming to the conclusion that they should sacrifice themselves in order to save the lives of their countrymen.
While the conflict is very compelling the film has a very hard time figuring out when to call it quits. Too many characters do not get the focus and development that they need in order to be better fleshed out. While the film isn’t terrible, it needs a swift editing job as it is too over-bloated with plotlines and characters that have no impact on the film.