Carter (2022)

Posted in Reviews by - November 27, 2022
Carter (2022)

Director Jung Byung-gil takes the frenetic ‘one shot’ approach he developed for the action sequences in 2017’s The Villainess and expands the concept into a full movie. As you can imagine, at over two hours, it is at times a challenging and bewildering watch; a story supposedly told in real-time with little to no breathing space from one mad action sequence to the next. The camera hyperactively moves from macro-level to expansive, high-flying drone footage, to disorientating transitional shots which zoom underneath moving trucks and helicopters, follow falling bodies to the ground, and so on. The action – of which there is plenty – blurs from a naked knife fight in a sauna, to a reprise of the bike chase in The Villainess, to a death-dive from an exploding aeroplane, to zombies descending on a falling rope bridge, to a simultaneous train and helicopter chase. The film’s initial adrenaline rush is effective and compelling, and the ambition shown by director Jung to fulfil such a crazy endeavour is remarkable. It’s 1917 on amphetamines. However, its the film’s convoluted storyline which feels overstretched; a deliberately obtuse, high-concept mix of The Bourne Identity and Mission: Impossible which frustratingly ties itself in knots, lodged somewhere between a rescue drama, a paranoid intergovernmental conspiracy, a case of mistaken identity, and a horror flick about a killer virus. Set largely in South Korea, the premise concerns the mysterious ‘DMZ virus’, which has been allegedly cooked up by rebels in the North looking to destabilise the regime. The rumour appears to have been fuelled further by the Americans looking to capitalise on the fall-out. In the spirit of bipartisanship, the South send a doctor to help develop a vaccine, the antibodies of which can be found in his daughter. Carter (the chiselled, excellent Joo Won) is originally from the South, but has become a military hero in North Korea who – in a bid to save his own infected daughter – agrees to having his mind erased to go on a mission to retrieve the doctors’ girl and transport her back to the North. For the majority of the film, Carter is as confused as we are, speaking into an earpiece as he is directed from one violent outburst to the next, unsure who to trust – the North Koreans, the South Koreans, or the CIA. The film’s pandemic theme touches on post-Covid hysteria, conspiracies and misinformation, but it’s never quite sure on a position, so instead it uses the virus as a backdrop for a pseudo-zombie thriller in the second half, when swathes of the undead start to attack like something fromĀ 28 Days Later. If the tone was less serious, then the film could be forgiven for its completely nonsensical lapses in character, logic and plot. For the best results, then, simply turn off the brain, hold on tight, and enjoy the ride.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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