Fantasia Festival 2017: A Taxi Driver (2017)

A Taxi Driver (2017)

Director: Hoon Jang

Cast: Kang-ho Song, Thomas Kretschmann, Hai-jin Yoo, Jun-yeol Ryu

A Taxi Driver is Korean drama that is based on a true story. It becomes apparent at the end that parts of it particularly related to the said taxi driver especially beginning and ending may be fictionalized mostly because this unnamed brave soul deserved the recognition and yet has never been found since the event. Before we jump too far in, A Taxi Driver is the retelling of how a taxi driver down on his luck decided to take a job to drive a German reporter to Gwangju in 1980 without realizing what was actually happening. The German reporter Jurgen Hinzpeter is an actual person and does have a recording of a clip here made in 2015 before he passed away in 2016 thanking his brave friend who he never got to meet again because he had given a fake name and phone number. This story is a retelling of his story. The best comparison of A Taxi Driver would be to Argo except this is a story about men walking into Gwangju as outsiders and leaving as insiders.

A Taxi Driver starts off in the most lighthearted fashion as we watch this taxi driver drive down the road happily singing along to a song. He makes judgmental comments about university student protesters blocking the road and causing the decrease in clients. Its pretty much an everyday feeling of seeing this man. In fact, it is done so well that it feels like we can connect with his character immediately. Whatever the first half an hour of the film felt like would not prepare you for the rest of it. There is no doubt that the tone gets much more serious as expected with the material and incredibly dramatic but all done effectively. Many will know Kang-ho Song from Korean monster movie, The Host however, its been over a decade and his acting has elevated into this emotional performance as taxi driver, Sa-bok Kim.

The director and the script both hit exactly the right tones. A Taxi Driver is a longer film however, there is only a few moments where we will notice a little drag. This film is about the uprising and seeing how the media released under government and what really happened had a huge discrepancy. The events are ruthless and this movie captures those heartless and confused, not to mention angry and frustrated moments very well as while this is set in a political background, the uprising itself is really talked about in broad strokes but rather focuses on the civilians and these two men who eventually bond together despite their backgrounds to take this hidden story to tell the world. Dramatization in slow motion was also used in parts to accentuate. A Taxi Driver turns into a heavy movie very quickly. It is also a tense experience as we follow these two men escape. However, the script and director adds in car chases to make it more gripping also.

As mentioned before, Kang-ho Song delivered an outstanding performance. However, we have to also acknowledge the great performances by Thomas Kretschmann as Jurgen Hinzpeter. Their parts together truly make this film have their moments as they both struggle to communicate due to language barrier and we see their communication and views align and they understand each other more. The performances overall were truly outstanding and the younger cast, Jun-yeol Ryu takes on a university protester also takes on a supporting role that truly connects as well.

A Taxi Driver is a fantastic movie filled with great performances and the retells a tense, gripping and emotional time in Korea when they struggled for their nation’s democracy.

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