Americans may recall the Somali civil war from the Hollywood blockbuster Black Hawk Down, but Ryoo Seung-wan’s intense political thriller Escape from Mogadishu (like the earlier film, shot entirely in Morocco) reframes the hostilities. Set in 1991, when a long-festering internal conflict erupted into war, the fact-based film thrusts the audience into the terrifying street-level chaos, as two sets of Korean diplomats attempt to flee the country with their families and lives intact. The fierce rivals from North and South must first overcome their mistrust of each other (“I heard they’re trained to kill with their bare hands,” one wife says fearfully), before they can join forces and devise a foolproof escape plan. But the ambassadors, played masterfully by Kim Yoon-seok (NYAFF Star Asia winner 2018) and Huh Jun-Ho, and their counselors, Zo In-sung and Koo Kyo-hwan (a 2019 NYAFF guest with Maggie), prove to be up to the challenge. Director Ryoo previously flexed his border-crossing action chops with The Berlin File; here, through explosively choreographed violence, welcome humor, and moments of true pathos, he provides an immersive filmgoing experience—and a moving argument for a united Korean family.
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