As disaster movies go this one is deeply uncomfortable. Hollywood doubtless would have cranked up the body count against a soaring soundtrack. In Sung-soo Kim’s Flu the outbreak of a potentially apocalyptic pandemic is presented without frills thereby bolstering its effect.
Fans of the genre might see shades of Outbreak and even 28 Days Later in the rudimentary storyline – the survivor of a container full of smuggled immigrants is sick and coughs his illness over his unwary trafficker who then infects an entire Seoul suburb.
But the no-nonsense approach scythes through any risk of melodrama. Instead the characters and situations, as civil servants play chess with real people, hint at what might happen when governments no longer have the power to control nature.
There is a universality about disaster movies but history shows us that they are either done well (see the ‘70s spree that led to The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure and Earthquake) or poorly (Meteor, The Swarm, When Time Ran Out).
Flu takes the disaster flick to a new level, boiling the tale down to human emotions and dispensing with unnecessary stunts and setpieces in favour of chills borne of reality and believable scenarios.
Playing at Sheffield Cineworld, and at the National Media Museum as part of the London Korean Film Festival.
Star rating: ***