Ransomed (2023) Review: The Korean Window Of Middle Eastern Conflict

It is always interesting as an American to watch another country’s perspective on the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict.


In the last few years, we have seen a dramatic increase in films from South Korea that has explored conflicts between Koreans and Middle Easterners. In 2021, the film ‘Escape from Mogadishu’ explored South Korea and North Korea’s role in the Civil War of Somalia that forced two enemies country to work together as a means of survival.

Earlier this year, the film ‘The Point Men’ was based on the 2007 international incident involving Christian missionaries being kidnapped in Afghanistan and held for ransom by the Islamic forces of the country.

It is clear that Middle Eastern and Korean conflicts have been popularized over the last few years and that trend continues with the film ‘Ransomed.’ While the Middle East is the central focus of the story, Ransom is a film that puts us back to the 1980s during the time of political corruption accusations against the South Korean government in the wake of the 1988 ‘Seoul’ Summer Olympic Games.


The film stars Ha Jung-Woo as Min-Joon, a South Korean diplomat who wants to be assigned to the United States, but there is no chance of advancement in his position. However, a crisis occurs that led to a South Korean secretary of the Korean embassy being abducted in Beirut, Lebanon.

One year after the Ambassador’s abduction, Min-Joon travels alone to Lebanon under the guise that this is the case that could put him in the position to move himself to America. The problem for Min-Joon is the country is in a civil war making his message impossible for one man to complete.

He then meets Pan-Soo (Ju Ji-Hoon), a Korean taxi driver who is good at speaking the Arabic language and knows the streets of Lebanon. The problem is that Pan-Soo is a con man and loves to swindle people out of cash for his benefit. With no other options for people to trust in the region, the duo has no choice but to work together to save the Ambassador and return home before they are captured and killed by the forces of Lebanon.


‘Ransomed’ is a far more complex story than the trailer will give it credit for. Audiences are going to be enthralled in a story of international politics that involves double-crossing from the highest and lowest of authorities.

If you thought America had a monopoly on shady government entities that will roll over their own citizens to protect their own image, then a film like this tells you that it is not an American issue.

The Korean government abandoned its own ambassador to protect its image from the perception of weakness. As a result of this mindset, the film’s protagonist Min-Joon, viewed as a low-level pencil pusher, doesn’t get the respect from his government to get what he needs. This requires him to put his life on the line to commit an act of heroism that will make his service undeniable to his country.


As this is going on you hear the story of A South Korean taxi driver who swindles up whatever he can get his hands on as a means to help him and his wife pay their way out of a dangerous region. The two characters come together with a strong sense of accomplishment needed to make the people around them happy but go through different methods in order to attain that satisfaction.

‘Ransomed’ takes classic tropes of American buddy cop films while being able to focus more on the character aspect of their storytelling due to the antagonist being the setting of Lebanon.

Without having to build up a stereotypical antagonist, the film spends more time on the relationship and the motivations of the characters making them more endearing to audiences. The concept is very similar to another 2023 film ‘Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant.’

That film saw two individuals go into the heart of ISIS territory and fight their way out of the country. ‘Ransomed’ has a similar concept but the pacing is better in how it crafts the conflict of the story along with its run time.


The film showcases great stunt choreography and cinematography that allows clever chase sequences. The third act takes a serious tone with the characters showing you the struggles of dealing with trauma and the reality that many in oppressive nation deals with under the boot of authoritarianism.

2 hours and 12 minutes is a little too long to ask for audiences to strap in for and if the film cut out about 20 minutes, the narrative would have been streamlined and easier to digest for mainstream audiences.

‘Ransomed’ is a solid hit for 2023 as South Korea continues its impressive streak of quality action dramas that have been able to rival the content from the American film industry. ‘Ransomed’ is a very solid window of a well-known conflict from a different perspective worthy of the audience’s attention.





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