In October 1979, South Korean President Park Chun-hee was assassinated, thus ushering in a new era of democracy. General Chun Doo-hwan seizes power of the country causing the citizens to protest in the streets with hopes of democracy. In Gwangju, riots have overtaken the streets and the city was shut down. In Seoul, Kim Man-seob (Song Kang-ho) is barely making ends meet as a taxi driver. He’s four months behind on his rent and it’s a daily struggle to keep afloat. He sees an opportunity to make some serious cash, enough to get caught up, so he fakes speaking English in order to grab a fare. Peter (Thomas Kretschmann) is a German reporter who flew in from Japan in order to capture the injustice on film. Kim drives him to Gwangju in order to make that money. Once both men are witness to the violence, everything changes. Everything they’ve ever had is now on the line and they will have to decide if they’re going to do what is best for them or what will be best for the country.
This isn’t the type of film I would normally watch or get in to. It’s a foreign language political drama about an event I knew nothing about. After a slow start, the film becomes highly addictive and harrowing. What makes the events even more interesting is the fact they were all based on true happenings. German reporter Jurgen Hinzpeter risked his life along with a taxi driver he met from Seoul, Korea in order to capture footage in order expose the massacre to the world. The film is less about the event and is more about the relationship between these two men. Despite the language barrier between them, they overcome insurmountable odds in order to save a country. Song and Kretschmann are fantastic together and both actors take the audience through a range of emotions without speaking very many words. The supporting cast is terrific and the film will surely be responsible for bring audiences to tears. The horrors of war are never too brutal but just graphic enough to get the idea across to what these people had to endure. At two hours and seventeen minutes, the running time seemed a bit daunting but once you’re engrossed in the story, it zips by in a flash. The film is already breaking records in South Korea and rightfully so. It will help to bring attention to an even in history many people are unfamiliar with. Director Hun Jang (THE FRONT LINE) takes you on an emotional rollercoaster ride with A TAXI DRIVER. It’s surely an important film which delivers an experience you won’t soon forget.