Emergency Declaration, the 2021 Korean plane disaster movie, is the Covid film I’ve been waiting for. Most of the major Covid-era films so far have catered too strongly to the fleeting and frequently changing aspects of pandemic life: lockdown, mitigation, quarantine, technology’s reimagined role in connecting us. The Michael Bay-produced Songbird (2020) might have been the worst offender, even if it wasn’t terrible. It reminded viewers of the worst parts of their own experiences without providing much more substance. Emergency Declaration—from its simple premise of a viral bio-terrorist attack on a commercial flight heading to Hawaii to its micro-geo-political war symbolized like chess pieces through the various passenger responses—is the movie for the moment.
Han Jae-rim’s newest film is the best movie ostentatiously about our pandemic—despite not being about the pandemic. The script was complete by July 2019, months before the pandemic began. Production shut down in March 2020 and again the same August. By most benchmarks, Han’s disaster thriller was more whomped by the pandemic than it was influenced by it. I don’t think I would’ve believed this coincidence so easily without recorded evidence in major news and film publications.
Perhaps it was the lack of foresight into how society and governments would actually respond that allowed for such a prescient and touching film that resonates so well with our experiences of the “long 2020,” as I like to call it. Either way, Emergency Declaration probes our strongest pandemic fears and performs them in the most paranoid and large-emotion means at their disposal: the anxiety associated with a cough on a plane in 2022 is dialed up to the maximum as a symptom of a state-threatening weapon.
Continue reading at the Boston Hassle.