Watching movies for me now is not just for entertainment, but also research for my dramatic writing class – where’s the arc, are the characters likeable, what’s the central dramatic question to hook the audience? But last Friday evening, this wasn’t the case. The moment the movie started, I forgot all about my research and was immersed for the full ninety minutes.
If you’ve watched Groundhog Day, this movie kind of reminds you of it, with lots of thrills and minus the romance.
Dr Kim Joon-Young is sitting on an airplane returning to Seoul, having missed his daughter Eun Jung’s birthday but hoping to make it up as soon as the plane lands. He gives an autograph and a selfie to the stewardess.
On his way to the airport carpark, he saves a boy from choking, gives a surprised press conference and then drives off, only to be interrupted by a road accident, where he sees, to his horrors, his daughter dead in the middle of a traffic crossing. And then he wakes up, back on the plane, and wonders if he has just been dreaming. Yet, everything that happens gives me a sense of deja vu – the stewardess, the choking boy, the press conference… and he knows he will find his daughter dead. He rushes against time but arrives too late. And then he wakes up back on the plane.
And these nightmares return repeatedly, with Dr Kim trying to beat fate to save his daughter but always in vain. Then he meets an ambulance driver, Lee Min-Chul, whose wife is also killed in the same accident, and who is also reliving the same nightmare as him. Both of them then try to work against time to stop the accident, but always never succeeding, until on one occasion, when they think they have succeeded, for they have crossed the time zone of the accident, only to learn that the accident has been staged, and the killer, like them, is reliving that day, each time to with the purpose to kill Dr Kim’s daughter and Lee’s wife.
With the scenes having to be repeated so many times, the editing is crucial, and subtle ingredients are added in each time to expand the plot and hook the audience. At the end of the movie, we learn that the good men are never really good and a bad man is bad for a good reason, and we empathise with the murderer despite what he has done.
And that’s what makes a great script.