Review: ASHFALL (2019)
You have to hand it to the writer/director team of Byung-seo Kim and Hae-jun Lee they certainly know how to create a film with an epic scope. Ashfall inflicts earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions on the Korean peninsula, It also pulls in North/South Korean tensions and the North’s nuclear program. With the assumption, they have nukes. All on top of the usual dramatics, such as the about to retire explosives expert with the pregnant wife. It all adds up to a gloriously insane film that mixes Syfy plotting with San Andreas level effects.
Jo In-Chang (Jung-woo Ha, The Closet) is a bomb disposal expert approaching retirement. His wife (Suzy Bae) is pregnant, and he wants to pursue a less risky occupation. His plans are interrupted when Baekdu Mountain erupts with a force that causes massive earthquakes across the entire peninsula. The eruptions that will follow could totally obliterate it.
Professor Kang Bong-Rae (Dong-seok Ma, Train To Busan, The Roundup) published a paper about this very possibility years ago and was laughed at. Nobody is laughing now. However, his plan calls for stealing the North Korean nukes and using them to decompress the volcano’s magma chambers. Cue a covert mission across the border that needs to link up with the less than trustworthy double agent Lee Joon-pyeong (Byung-Hun Lee, I Saw The Devil, The Man Standing Next).
If this all sounds insane, remember I said Syfy plotting, or if you’re old school, The Core. Ignore it and go with the ride. Ashfall is a wild mix of disaster films and military action films. Six minutes in, and we get a wild sequence of driving through an earthquake-ravaged city. Twenty minutes in, we’re heading across the DMZ. Of course, shit goes wrong. The special ops team dies, and it’s just the techs that are left to finish the job. Of course, there will be no backup.
This is a Korean attempt at creating a Hollywood-style blockbuster. And it hits a lot closer to the mark than China’s attempt with The Wandering Earth. It even has an epic length at just over two hours, though it could have been trimmed a bit. Thankfully, there’s enough action to fill most of the run time. And the effects are up to the job of depicting it.
And just when things seem to be settling down, US and Chinese troops show up to stir the pot some more. Ashfall checks just about every conceivable box a Korean action film can. The results may be absurd at times, but they’re never boring.
If you’re looking for a big spectacular dose of action, Ashfall is it. Sit back and enjoy the spectacle. And be thankful The Rock is nowhere to be seen.
Ashfall is currently in limited theatrical release from Capelight Pictures. A DVD/VOD release is planned for later in the year.