Miles on Movies

The Host

reviewed by R. Miles Mendenhall

When a giant human-devouring mutant tadpole starts hunting in the middle of Seoul on the banks of the Han River, someone must do something. Actually some ones, a family who, for want of a better phrase, are the Korean equivalent of dysfunctional redneck doofuses.

The long-suffering working class father, Park Hee-bong played by Byun Hee-bong, owns a refreshment stand. His oldest son, Gang-du played by Song Gang-ho, is a perpetually napping dim-witted father who becomes desperate to save his daughter from the beastie. The daughter Hyun-seo, played by Ah-sung Ko, is a plucky young schoolgirl who shows amazing fortitude and courage. Her aunt Nam-joo, played by Bae Du-na, is a champion archer who always seems to choke in the clinch. Her uncle Nam-il, played by Park Hae-il, is a disaffected and unemployed college grad that finally gets to show off the skills he learned as a university student.

The authorities are oblivious, callous and often menacing. To negotiate their hunt for the mutant fish the family must deal with the greed and corruption of the boom boom capitalist business culture. And at the evil core America (U.S.) is responsible. There is one heroic G.I. who takes a central role in the initial mêlée with the giant fish/amphibian.

I have a special affection for this film, since I attended 6th Grade at Yongsan Elementary and 7th Grade at Seoul American High School on Yongsan U.S. military base in Seoul, on the banks of the Han River. The significance of that will be apparent to everyone who sees the opening sequence. This incident is factual. It led to a legal case and a conflict over Korean sovereignty vs. the legal rights of the U.S. Army in Korea.

Best quote, “I gave my youth for my nation’s democracy!”

Writer/Director Joon-ho Bong has created a serious, yet hilarious, romp with all of the elements of an excellent monster movie, thriller, social satire and heartwarming family tragicomedy.

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