Saturday, December 08, 2007

Save the Green Planet: Rescued from an emotional conflict

Sometimes it's exhilarating to throw yourself into an alien environment, not knowing what adventures lie ahead of you or whether you'll escape the experience untouched. So it was when I placed the disc for Save the Green Planet! into the DVD tray and hit play.

The 2003 Korean release struck me as a strange hybrid of varied genres, recalling a mixed bag of movies such as Misery, Silence of the Lambs, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, and the X Files (those of you with deeper film vocabularies will probably find more and wider cultural allusions, especially to non-Western works).

Bouncing between sociopathic horror, psychotic hallucination, intergalactic conspiracy theory, and absurdist comedy, the story is pushed forward at a frenetic pace taking several twisted turns and double backs along the way. I couldn't do the complex narrative justice in such a short review, and the small surprises of many of the details are worth discovering on your own.

In sparest outline, the frame of the story rests on Byung-gu's perhaps quixotic quest to thwart the destruction of Earth fated to arrive with the next lunar eclipse after a torturous 7-day advent. He and his unquestioningly loyal girlfriend Soonyi, an acrobat by trade, kidnap the head of a large chemical company, Kang (a sly reference to the tentacled alien pair from the Simpsons?), who they suspect is part of a mysterious group of extra-terrestrials hiding here in plain sight.

A race against time unfolds from the perspective of three emotionally conflicted parties: the kidnappers, their prisoner, and the detectives trying to track them down. It's a chase that takes place in a murky moral ambiguity. We're never sure who to root for, or against, as heroes and villains, bullies and victims trade places and shift identities.

No one is innocent or free from blame for the crimes personal, social and universal that surface throughout. As the very future of the planet hangs in the balance, we can only hope to grasp a few answers and find a way out of the overwhelming suffering. When it's all over, you may even ask yourself, like Byung-gu, if we're worth the trouble of saving.
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