What “Psycho” did for showers and “Jaws” did for the ocean, the Korean disaster flick “Tunnel” won’t likely do for, well, tunnels. But after watching this often gripping, humanistic thriller, you may just think twice before driving into one.
On a typical day’s ride home from his job selling Kias, kindly family man Jung-soo (Ha Jung-woo) becomes trapped in a traffic tunnel when the structure collapses on top of him.
A miraculous, frankly implausible 35 days ensue in which Jung-soo, armed with only a fading cellphone, two small water bottles and his daughter’s birthday cake, struggles to survive amid the claustrophobic rubble as baffled rescue crews, led by a noble task force chief (Oh Dal-su), work overtime to extract him.
Meanwhile, Jung-soo’s devoted wife (Doona Bae) holds vigil outside the tunnel, the media exploits the situation and government officials scramble for photo ops.
Writer-director Kim Seong-Hun offers up the requisite obstacles, setbacks and (well-staged) action bits. But the film, based on the novel by So Jae-Won, largely focuses on the personal, including Jung-soo’s selfless efforts to help a young woman and her dog also buried in the debris.
Unfortunately, there’s not enough story here to warrant the film’s more than two-hour running time; 90 taut minutes tracking a week in the ruined tunnel would have sufficed. Still, it’s a vivid and relatable tale.
In Korean with English subtitles
Running time: 2 hours, 7 minutes
Playing: CGV Cinemas, Los Angeles; AMC Fullerton 20; Regal La Habra Stadium 16