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[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Phone"

2016/01/30 | 1427 views | Permalink

In the unremarkable year of 2014, lawyer Dong-ho (played by Son Hyun-joo) lives a somewhat alcoholic and harassed life with his wife Yeon-soo (played by Uhm Ji-won) and daughter Kyeong-rim (played by Roh Jeong-eui). One tragic turn of events and a year-long timeskip later it's 2015. Dong-ho has sobered up a little and is a tad more depressed, but otherwise life is tolerable. Then he gets the opportunity to change what has become the defining moment of his life back in 2014.

"Unremarkable" is the main word, writ large, which I would use to describe "The Phone". The entire first portion of the movie up until the main science fiction twist is unveiled is painstakingly dry, and establishes little important information except for the fact that Dong-ho is the technical leader of an upper single child family who takes life a tad too easy but luckily his wife has enough of a head on her shoulders to keep things running smoothly. Sort of like a traditional family sitcom.

Once the science fiction twist is properly utilized (Dong-ho wastes some more time not believing in it at first) "The Phone" gets much more interesting as it dives into the mystery. Who was responsible for what happened in 2014 and why? Technically speaking, of course, the easiest way to resolve the conflict would be by just having such-and-such important character hide out somewhere safe and non-dangerous but where's the fun in that?

I liked "The Phone" less on objective merits and more because the movie has the kind of script that's a lot of fun to try and makes guesses about. Which characters are the most relevant and helpful? Which can be trusted? What dumb thing will Dong-ho do to prevent the movie from ending sooner? Are the science fiction elements portrayed consistently? Well mostly although it's pretty easy to nitpick the final twist if you have a mind for that kind of thing.

"The Phone" isn't going to set the world on fire for great screenwriting mostly because it's a sort of pastiche of high concepts from old mid-budget movies. It even comes complete with Son Hyun-joo as the aging but still mostly bankable lead actor who's steady enough at his work that you never really question the logistics of the central story in "The Phone" because it's plausible in the moment. I was always curious about what would happen next because I was engaged enough in the experience to enjoy myself and not get mad.

That praise probably sounds pretty faint, although at least part of the reason for this is that I really don't want to discuss the plot of "The Phone" at all, since so much of the fun here comes from being able to unravel the story in person. "The Phone" is a great movie to watch with friends or family who like talking during the movie, either to speculate on the plot or mock it. For any other audience it's just decently average- a good enough way to kill time for an afternoon, but not enough to linger on indefinitely in the recesses of memory.

Review by William Schwartz

"The Phone" is directed by Kim Bong-joo and features Son Hyun-joo, Uhm Ji-won, Bae Sung-woo and Roh Jeong-eui.

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