Cast: Song Kang-ho, Byun Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doo-na
Written by Bong Joon-ho, Baek Chul-hyun, Ha Jun-won
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Often when a filmmaker creates a work that is as highly praised as ‘Parasite,’ you can trace through their earlier work to understand how they developed their style in a way that would ultimately result in such a film. In the case of Bong Joon-ho, this is absolutely true, and his 2006 socially-aware action-adventure ‘The Host’ has all the markings of someone on their way to making a great film.
Tackling the continuously growing issue of pollution in a modern society, Bong Joon-ho utilises the format of American blockbusters such as ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Jaws’ to create a monster of his own. Born from the carelessness of American scientists in a South Korean lab, pollutants that are dumped into the Han River soon corrupt the local wildlife, resulting in one movie-antagonist sized monster. Of course, these things are never so simple, and to make matters worse this latest mutation is accompanied by a deadly virus that spreads from any contact with the creature. Following a family who run a local café on the banks of the river, we see how the carelessness of those in power can force everyday people to take matters into their own hands.
In terms of cinematography, Bong Joon-ho is on top form as usual, and between himself and director of photography Kim Hyung-koo, their ability to capture movement within a scene is unparalleled. A focus on handheld camerawork that follows the momentum of any moment allows for each character to display their reaction to a moment of tension or drama without ever distracting from the key part of the scene, which is often the actions of the monster. As well as this, the emotive range that many of the actors display allows for a great amount of non-verbal storytelling. Bong Joon-ho’s long-time friend and collaborator Song Kang-ho once again features as the father figure in the story, and his ability to display his emotions simply through changes in his facial features captures exactly what the characters are experiencing in many of the scenes. Together, the natural feel of the camerawork and its focus on capturing what each of the performers are expressing allows ‘The Host’ to stand out from many others in the genre.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Bong Joon-ho film if there wasn’t a deeper meaning behind everything that’s going on, and between the origin of the monsters creation and the way in which the American media and government step in to mishandle the situation shows clear signs of an anti-western attitude from the director. In contrast to these large organisations in power, the lead family within the narrative own a small independent café that is massively effected by the choices made by those in charge, emphasising the anti-corporate ideology that the film takes on. It soon becomes clear that Bong Joon-ho feels as if elements of his home country have become corrupted by the world superpower, and that nowhere in the world is truly free from the control of the American government.
Amongst all of this, the film still manages to maintain a consistently entertaining action film, with some great moments of humour. ‘The Host’ shows itself to be an all-round great film that understands what many audiences want out of a trip to the cinema, whilst also providing a deeper and more thought-provoking message beneath its grotesque surface.