(The always fantastic Fantastic Fest runs September 21-28 in Austin, Texas. Check out Bears Rebecca Fonté’s movie review of Project Silence which played at the fest. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page. )
A group of victims comes together slowly. Different people from different backgrounds all on their way to the same location, whether they know it or not. That location is disaster. I love a good disaster film. They can be huge like The Day After Tomorrow, or relatively contained like Airport 77. I think what appeals to me most is the randomness of it all. There’s often no particular reason for these characters to come together, they’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The chaos of it all just appeals to my inner sense of justice in this world. There is none. But sometimes a disaster can force of justice out in the open.
Project Silence opens with the low-level political assistant willing to put himself out there and stand up for what he believes in and the positions of his guy, the current Secretary of Defense on a fast track to the presidency. Jung-won (played by Lee Sun-kyun from Parasite – wow these actors are getting a lot of work!) is hardly the action hero model, although he quickly finds himself in Sylvester Stallone mode in Daylight, when a bridge collapses and he has to lead a ragtag group of survivors through the abandoned cars and rubble to safety. Oh, also there is a pack of genetically altered rabid killer dogs broken free from a military transport and ready for revenge. Yes, it’s completely ridiculous, but it gives Jung-won not only the chance to reconnect with his daughter (he is of course a single parent with a dead wife), learn what is important in life, and make the world a better place by exposing this military secret that he finds was approved on his boss’s watch.
It’s sort of a by-the-books disaster film, but the reality here is, the books get it right. I found myself at the edge of my seat watching the disparate humans, all with their small problems diminished in the face of death, fight their way from one side of the bridge to the other. Detention is formidable, and every character gets their moment to help in their victory, of course including a few that must give themselves up for the others to survive. An interesting side effect of the central plot of Project Silence is there is a strange amount of understanding one has for the dogs, especially the alpha dog who is the genetic mother of all the other dogs, who have had a life of pain and slavery and our finally getting a moment of revenge on their captors. It’s like in The Happening, where I kinda wanted to root for the plants. Anyone who has made the regular pilgrimage to fantastic fest knows full well that dogs often don’t make it to the end of the film here, so this may be a little bit of a level set for me as well.
Director Kim Tae Gon fills the screen with destruction and pounds our ears with the soundscape of terror. The film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Hong Kyung Pyo (surprisingly the cinematographer of Parasite) and the CGI is spot on. The film may be a direct descendant of a Hollywood model, but that doesn’t mean it can’t prove the teams skill at perfecting that model and giving us the perfect example of disaster cinema. No, Project Silence is not going to win all the awards of Parasite, but if anybody is sleeping still on South Korean cinema and not realizing it’s consistently putting out better Hollywood movies than Hollywood, it’s time to open your mind. This was the perfect film for Fantastic Fest and any silly American who won’t read subtitles can wait for the dub version to hit the streamers, cause I’m ready for a franchise. Bring on Project Silence 2: Paws and Rewind.
– Bears Rebecca Fonté (@BearsFonte)
Fantastic Fest; Kim Tae Gon; Project Silence movie review