Selected as the South Korean entry for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards, Escape From Mogadishu was not nominated but went on to win numerous other awards including ‘Best Film’ at the 42nd Blue Dragon Film Awards. The film was also a box office hit and was the second highest grossing film in South Korea in 2021.
Escape From Mogadishu is based on real life events and tells the story of South Korea and North Korea’s efforts to be admitted to the United Nations. Set in Somalia, rival diplomats from South Korea and North Korea are in the midst of attempting to gain a vote for membership from Somalia by wooing their President, when civil unrest breaks out. When the diplomats find themselves trapped without aid, they set aside longstanding rivalries and mistrust to work together to survive and escape from the capital.
Escape From Mogadishu visits almost every genre. It is set against a political power struggle, so works as a political thriller. It has car chases and explosions such as would be seen in an action film. It depicts war at its most horrible and bloody and so has elements of horror, but it also has elements of comedy, and humorous moments that will likely make the audience laugh out loud. This may sound like a mishmash of genres that shouldn’t quite work together, however Escape From Mogadishu does make it work and all of these components make sense within the story that is being told.
Whilst the film manages successfully to reimagine events from the perspective of the South Korean and North Korean characters, who are depicted as fully rounded characters, the same cannot be said for the Somalian characters. These characters are side-lined and predominantly used as cannon fodder and with the exception of a couple, nameless and without characterisation. It is fair to say that Escape From Mogadishu is about the Korean viewpoint and so that is why the film is primarily told that way. However, a slightly more balanced retelling would have elevated the nuances and emotional heft of the film. It is very hard to see a place and its people being destroyed and killed and then not seeing any of those people being given any sort of a voice.
That being said, the film certainly succeeds in being an effective action drama that fans of the genre will no doubt enjoy. Escape From Mogadishu doesn’t always get its human elements right, but its action sequences and unlikely humour differentiate it from other genre films.
Action, Drama, Thriller | South Korea, 2021 | 15 | Cinema & Digital HD | 25th March 2022 (UK) | Signature Entertainment | Dir.Seung-wan Ryu | Kim Yoon-seok, Huh Joon-ho, Zo In-sung,Koo Kyo-hwan, Joung Man-sik