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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 26, 2022



‘EMERGENCY DECLARATION’ is a Korean thriller set to be released in local theaters on August 31.  

The title is a term in aviation. When a pilot sends a message of “emergency declaration”, it means his plane is in great danger and should be given utmost priority to rescue it. 

All other planes are ordered to give way to it until it has landed safely. 

This is clearly established in the film’s foreword by Director Han Jae-rim, best known for “The King”, a political crime-drama about an ambitious lawyer. 

The movie starts at the Incheon International airport, introducing the major characters.

A weird, suspicious looking man, Ryu Jin-Seok (Yim Si-wan, a singer and romantic lead in Koreanovelas), asks a ground attendant which airplanes would carry the most people. 

He is quite annoying and you know right away that he’s up to do some mischief. 

In the toilet, he makes an incision on his armpit to insert a small tube so it won’t be detected by airport security. 

He then sees a little girl and suspects she might have seen what he has done. 

But before he can accost her, the girl’s dad, Jae Hyuk (Lee Byung-hun, "Squid Game") comes in. They are going to Hawaii to help treat the girl’s skin disease. 

Ryu Jin-Seok takes the same flight to Hawaii and when the plane takes off, he retrieves the tube from his body and releases its contents in the bathroom. 

He turns out to be a biological terrorist, a clear nutcase with an axe to grind against humanity who releases the virus in the claustrophobic confines of an aircraft. 

The first passenger to use the toilet quickly dies horrifyingly, coughing out blood, as witnessed by everyone. 

On the ground, we are introduced to Sgt. Koo (Song Kang-ho, star of international hits “Snowpiercer” and “Parasite”), a police officer who gets a video of a man who threatens to kill everyone inside a plane. 

It turns out his wife is one of the passengers in the ill-fated plane chosen by the bio- terrorist. 

He makes his own investigation and is able to track down Ryu Jin-seok’s apartment and discovers a dead body inside. 

He will then stop at nothing to save his wife and all the passengers. 

The film runs for 2 and a half hours but it is swiftly paced. 

The storytelling is filled with many melodramatic twists, like one of the passengers turns out to be a former pilot with whom the plane’s co-pilot has a grudge for allegedly killing his wife in another plane mishap that happened years ago. 

Soon, blisters and other menacing symptoms like high fever and bursting cappilaries appear on the other passengers. 

The infected passengers are separated from the still healthy ones but, in the end, no one is exempted, not even the main pilot.

When he died, the plane is left unmanned and we see it flying wayward, turning upside down and frightening all the somersaulting passengers thrown into various directions. 

This is a well executed sequence where you will really sympathize with the terrified passengers.

We don’t think this movie will ever be offered as an in flight movie during long air travels as it would surely send scary shivers down the spine of actual passengers who’d watch it.


Meantime, government officials are doing their best and racing against time to help the beleaguered aircraft. 

The company where Ryu Jin-seok used to work as a scientist and where he got the virus, won’t cooperate so the authorities can get the anti-virus to counter the infection. 

When the plane reaches Honolulu, it is not given permission to land. 

When it tries to go to Japan, it’s also rejected. 

People on the ground are divided on whether the plane should be allowed to return and land in Korea. 

The unfortunate plane is also attacked by other hostile aircraft that sends warning missiles to ward them off. 

More than helping them, they’d rather have everyone on the plane die to prevent the spread of the hyper-contagious virus. 

The movie shows how some humans can be so cruel to others in times of crisis

The film also tries to present what makes terrorists commit such heinous crimes, touching on previous real life cases like the notorious Las Vegas shooting. 

Looks like these psychos have no other reason than just killing others and creating chaos. 

If this movie were shown before the pandemic, it wouldn’t have much of an impact. 

But given our current situation concerning deadly virus like the ever-mutating corona-covid19 and monkeypox, it becomes more intensely meaningful and relatable for us. 

The movie actually stirs our emotions and raises valid issues about morality and social responsibility, governmental accountability, human kindness and personal sacrifice. 

One character even offers himself up to be used as a guinea pig to test if the anti-virus would really work. 

The movie is mostly filled with action and tension but the final act seems anti-climactic and loses steam after there is a sudden screen black out. 

We are then shown an epilogue of what happened later. 

It doesn’t feel that satisfying after the harrowing journey we had with the plane’s trapped passengers, but still it’s a timely but anxiety-inducing movie that will remind us that yes, we are still in a global health crisis like this pandemic and it’s best to still take safety measures always. 

The ensemble cast is uniformly splendid, specially those who do heroic things during their ordeal that the viewer can empathize with. 

The film’s CGI inside the plane, the foreboding musical score and the rapid fire editing, showing furious scenes inside the plane and on the ground, are all first rate. 

All in all, it’s fine nerve-racking entertainment and we should be thankful that it’s just a movie.