‘Ashfall' review: Korean disaster movie sees Lee Byung-hun and Ha Jung-woo as uneasy allies out to save both the North and South

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When a volcano erupts on Baekdu Mountain, it's up to the two frenemies from opposing camps to prevent further tragedy

Joanne Ma |
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Combining love for special effects make-up and Hong Kong movies

Ashfall starts by showing a sudden volcanic eruption on Baekdu Mountain. With an even worse eruption predicted, the South Korean government decides on a secret, highly risky and last-resort operation to stop it.

Jo In-chang (Ha Jung-woo) is the captain of a special forces team. His job is to contact Lee Joon-pyeong (Lee Byung-hun), a North Korean officer. Meanwhile, In-chang’s pregnant wife Choi Ji-young (Bae Suzy) is left alone in Seoul, totally unaware of the operation that her husband is leading, and doing her best to survive the natural disaster.

The effort and (presumably) money put into the CGI totally pays off. The volcanic eruptions are magnificent and the earthquakes, tsunami and wipeout of the city are terrifying enough to convince you this is how it would look in real life.

Intertwining plot lines show the development of relationships between frenemies and families, and the understandings that the characters have of themselves. When neither In-chang nor Joon-pyeong know whether they should trust one another, the audience is able to grasp their subtle relationship dynamics through their actions, expressions and dialogue.

Although it sounds complex, somehow it all works seamlessly – making it not just a story about saving the Korean peninsula from disaster, but about the ordinary people who get caught up in an extraordinary event.

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