Concrete Utopia

Concrete Utopia

The world has been reduced to rubble by a massive earthquake. While no one knows for sure how far the ruins stretch, or what the cause of the earthquake may be, in the heart of Seoul there is only one apartment building left standing. It is called Hwang Gung Apartments. As time passes, outsiders start coming in to Hwang Gung Apartments trying to escape the extreme cold. Before long, the apartment residents are unable to cope with the increasing numbers. Feeling a threat to their very survival, the residents enact a special measure.

  • Released: 2023-12-31
  • Runtime: 130 minutes
  • Genre: Drama, Thrillers
  • Stars: Lee Byung-hun, Park Bo-young, Park Seo-jun, Park Ji-hu, Kim Do-yoon, Kim Sun-young, Na Chul, Lee Hyo-je, Um Tae-goo, Kim Hak-sun, Gong Min-jeung, Jung Young-ki, Oh Hee-joon, Kim Joon-bae, Lee Seo-hwan, Kang Ae-sim, Nam Jin-bok, Byun Jin-su, Kim Yong-jun, Gwak Ja-hyeong
  • Director: Um Tae-hwa
  • templepatton - 17 March 2024
    Capitalism sucks
    I'm reading a lot of reviews that say this is a movie about the "cruel human nature" and blah blah blah. That is just the type of cheap misanthropy and conformist discourse that allows our governments to start wars and exploit other peoples. This film has a clear political reading and has more to do with capitalism, the accumulation of resources and the creation of poverty and conflicts. It also makes a very recognizable parallel with the treatment that Western societies give to refugees from disasters or wars. It is not "the cruel human nature", it is the neoliberal conceptualization of life as a competition, with no possibility of mutual support or cooperation. Great movie.
  • Luv2Spooge - 31 December 2023
    Very accurate reflection of humanity.
    Some evaluate this as a dystopian thriller, but I think that is the wrong category. This film is not really a thriller like 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, etc... The dystopia background is just incidental and not really relevant to the plot. The film is an examination of humanity both during time of crisis and just in general.

    The people of the "utopia" were misguided in thinking they were chosen and above the rest. This led them to be heartless and egotistical. As the time goes by, they became more and more resentful of the outsiders, calling them roaches. Towards the end, there was clearly a reference to North Korea's isolation in the scene when they were punishing the residents who kept refugees.

    One may mistaken their reluctance to exile the perpetrators as compassion, but it was all about control. This is why they humiliated them by forcing them to recite "We were wrong" 200 times publicly. This is a tactic of oppressive control quite familiar in North Korea and even communism China.

    The rise and fall of the utopia was inevitable due to human nature of selfishness, victimhood, and pushing blame. You may notice that when the delegate was exposed, everyone blamed him for exiling the outsiders when it was clearly an landslide resident vote. The mother of the woman's association also blamed the delegate for her son's death even though she was aware of the risks of going outside.

    Overall the ending nailed it when the main character's wife said, "They were just ordinary people." The people of the Utopia were neither good or bad persay, but just normal people with human flaws. Even the delegate himself was rather a tragic character, who was scammed, then lost his family, and was voted into position he didn't ask for and ultimately scapegoated for their failures.

    The ending also draws attention to the contrast of character. The group of survivors in the end were more understanding, compassionate, etc.. because the were a gathering of survivors, those who had gone through the hardship. In contrast, the apartment survivors were all from the same building that went unscathed. This is why they were out of touch with what was happening out there in the real world.

    Definite a 10/10 for the story, the acting, and the special effects.
  • Blue-Grotto - 7 October 2023
    Power dynamics when earthquake strikes
    Seoul is reduced to rubble when a powerful earthquake strikes in the winter. One concrete apartment tower remains standing in the ruins. Violence breaks out as people realize that resources and shelters are extremely limited. The residents of the sole standing apartment tower divide into camps of those with empathy for other survivors and outsiders, and those who feel they are separate from everyone else and must beat others into submission to survive. A man and woman living in one of the apartments each picks a different side.

    "I can look at a person and recognize if they are cheating me," says the man chosen as the apartment complex leader. In Korea each such complex has its own culture and rules, and this man - a former soldier - quickly assumes command. However, this chosen leader is hiding a dark side. Sparks fly between the couple as well as the complex as a whole as people line up behind the leader, or choose to disobey.

    Director Um Tae-hwa said he is interested in how people are transformed during a crisis. The film is based on a Cheerful Neighbor web-comic story about a similar disaster where people become selfish bullies, or not. "There is no absolute evil or good," he said. The complex characters of the film reveal this truth. They are not black and white, and that is a good thing. Um Tae-hwa appeared at the North American premier at the Toronto International Film Festival. "If you post comments about the film on social media," he said "I will read them."

    I loved the theme of the film; people choosing to bully others or to be kind to them, when a crisis hits. There are people who choose rules, violence, and other forms of separation, and those who choose kindness, love, and sharing. The characters are intriguing as well, the acting is solid, and commentary interesting. The film isn't using computer generated imagery as a crutch and pleasantly relies on more traditional forms of film making. Thought is given to each situation as well as human warmth and humor.

    So, see what prevails, love or the fist.