Save the Green Planet! (2003)

Save the Green Planet is 2003 Korean film that must be seen to be believed (or appreciated). Full disclosure: It’s one of my all time favorite films (from any country).

I typically won’t bother writing a review for something when so many people have already done so…I try to keep my reviews focused on little known or reviewed works, so as to try to help other viewers decide if it would be something they like (as so many other IMDb reviewers have done for everyone else in the past). But, I felt I almost owed it to this movie to post a review…and, since this director (& writer of this film) is soon going to FINALLY work on a new feature film, there’s no better time than now to review this puppy.

I realize this film is not going to be to everyone’s tastes. It can be considered being all over the place in tone and story, and it will get violent at times. You will definitely want to ignore the whimsical poster & box art that makes you think this is going to be some lighthearted adventure tale…that is certainly not the case. What this film is about, however, is quite difficult to fully describe. In fact, you’re probably better offer just watching it yourself without knowing anything in advance, and forming your own opinions,; that’s how I first saw it years ago (knowing nothing about it prior to viewing)…it was real late at night back in ’04 or so, and it was either this Korean film I’d never heard of, or a Lorenzo Lamas helmed low budget action flick…I clearly chose wisely that evening (sorry Mr. Latin Heartthrob). As the movie I chose played out, I went from: “this is OK enough to watch, to this is a pretty interesting film, to this is getting a little bizarre, to this a mesmerizing piece of cinema”. In all honesty, after the credits rolled, I was simply awestruck by WTF I had just watched.

If you want to watch the movie as I first did without prior knowledge as to what it’s about (which I fully recommend), DON’T READ THIS PARAGRAPH!…Your story involves a “slightly off” young man who is convinced there are aliens among us that mean to do us harm. With the help of his girlfriend, he’s determined to rid the world of these aliens, and hence; ‘save the green planet’. He kidnaps what he believes is the leader of these aliens on earth, and systematically tortures him to find the truth about the alien plans. Then, it’s a matter of slowly uncovering whether this captor is just a delusional loon, or the key to saving the entire world, or somewhere in between. This film runs the gamut from being a standard crime mystery thriller, to a torture film, to a simple tale about life & love & humanity, to an outrageous sci-fi film about the beginnings & end of mankind. You name it, and this movie probably has it; it’s as strange as it is grounded, as devious as it is poignant, as simple as it is complex, etc…; it somehow manages to successfully juggle so many differing emotions, ideas, and stories together in an astonishingly effortless way that doesn’t even seem possible.

As for the acting: Your lead actor is played Shin Ha-kyun… He’s always been a really good actor, but, he gives a terrific performance here as the man who’s determined to (in his mind anyway) save Earth at all costs. The rest of the actresses and actors involved in this film are all solid to excellent in their performances as well…Job Well Done by everyone involved.

Look; I’d been a huge fan of Asian cinema in general long since prior to watching this film, and, it was pretty clear to me that Korea was starting to bring it big time back in the early 2000’s; with Park Chan-wook’s vengeance trilogy already under away, and a number of decent spy thrillers, love stories, and rom-coms in the bag, you couldn’t help but notice the talent on display in the up and coming Hallyu industry at that time. But, Save the Green Planet was perhaps the final tipping point (in my opinion anyway) that convinced the “non believers” once and for all. Most people look to Old Boy’s release a year later, which is also a movie I dearly love, as THE seminal Korean film from that era (and rightfully so), but, you’d be doing yourself a huge disservice if you didn’t at least give this “somewhat overlooked” film a look see. You might not like it, you may love it, you be ‘meh’ about it…regardless, I consider this movie to be mandatory viewing for any cinephile, or, any random moviegoer for that matter!…I just watched it again a month or so ago…it’s as awesome as it ever was!…If you haven’t seen it, I implore you to check it out someday when you get a chance!