A thrilling experience from beginning to end, EMERGENCY DECLARATION has a great premise right from the get go; what if a terrorist creates a virus outbreak on a commercial airliner out of South Korea headed for the United States? Movies almost entirely set on a plane are fascinating to me as it creates a situation that you have no choice but to fight your way out of, and this movie really gets you involved really fast.
After our terrorist (played very well here by Korean super-star Lee Byung-hun) manages to board the flight and hiding his goods in his body, all chaos breaks loose. As this is a very brutal virus with quick and fatal consequences, this also creates a multi-national situation as the plane is already in air and no bordering countries want to take the plane in peril, even South Korea itself, which creates a pretty tense and powerful situation that the movie handles with extreme precision when a plane has nowhere to land.
Featuring a terrific Korean cast including The biggest and most notable star here is Song Kang-ho (notable to Western audiences from PARASITE and more recently the wonderful BROKER) as a detective whose wife is on that very plane, and makes some critical decisions involving the virus outbreak that was quite surprising. In fact, all of the characters have three dimensions, right down to the terrorist himself who has some truly terrifying motivations. Filmmaker Han Jae-Rim has complete control over all of this material and directs with such an commanding energy and eagerness to please, and it’s a design that is missing from a lot of Western movies at the moment.
Nothing is easy in this movie. The terrorist has a much more scary intention than we think, and towards the end, it dawned on me that this movie had the exact same squeeze on me as SPEED did all the way back in 1994. Of course there are some of the usual action and thriller tropes with a lot of story elements taken from other airline-in-peril movies (DIE HARD 2 came into my mind on more than a few occasions)…that is totally fine with EMERGENCY DECLARATION as the action and excitement never lets up, and you truly care about everyone involved who go completely above and beyond to save the day. It even ends in a beautiful and quite powerful way all set to a classical piece of music that I dare not reveal here, but it was such a sweet release after an epic two hours of intensity.
About the Blu Ray:
WellGo USA once again has released a really nice Blu Ray presentation of this outstanding movie. Always consistent with their releases through and through, I was immediately impressed by the menu and setup leading to a very solid experience. There is a very high bitrate, 2.39:1 transfer included that was very close to what I saw in theatres. The movie was shot digitally on 4k Alexa digital cameras, and a lot of the interior plane sequences have a particular look with some digital noise, but I think it added to the suspense. On the ground there’s a lot more clarity and color balance and it’s an overall look that is so pleasing to the eyes. The soundtrack ROCKS in full on Dolby Atmos (which downscaled to 7.1 on my own system) and is one really immersive soundtrack. I saw this theatrically in a cinema with a great sound system And of course, the movie is subtitled with clear, accurate white subtitles that just fit within the bottom of the frame (it’s a personal preference but I still like the subtitles remaining within the image instead of going into the bottom bar area for scope titles).
The bonus features are basic but it’s about all that was made for the movie from a few featurettes to the Cannes Out of Competition premiere, but my favourite was all of the behind the scenes footage of the massive mock-up plane they used, and in particular when they were throwing around all of the actors in some of the most pivotal action scenes. Sometimes I don’t ACTUALLY want to know how some effects were achieved but this was still a lot of fun to watch.
Overall, EMERGENCY DECLARATION was one of my very favourite movies of 2022. It’s an intense, complicated story with a lot of conflict and I was deeply involved in its’ fast moving 142 minute runtime, and it’s great to know that this solid Blu Ray is out there for more audiences to find.
EMERGENCY DECLARATION is now available on Blu Ray and Apple TV, and of course our thanks to our partners at Taro PR and WellGo USA for sending along a copy for review.