Somalia (Escape From Mogadishu’ Review: Conflict Abroad) This year’s biggest moneymaker in the South Korean box office and that country’s entry for best international feature at the 2022 Oscars, “Escape from Mogadishu,” is a based-on-a-true-story thriller whose pleasures are fraught.
Part disaster flick, part horror-comedy, the film, directed by Ryoo Seung-wan, unfolds from the perspective of Korean diplomats caught in the cross hairs of an armed uprising in the capital of Somalia in 1991 — an event that led to the ousting of President Mohamed Siad Barre by local insurgents.
Picture of the day: Mogadishu 2021
Han Shin-sung (Kim Yoon-seok) and Kang Dae-jin (Zo In-sung) must evacuate their embassy and lead their employees and family members to safety, in the process contending with comically corrupt local police forces and trigger-happy rebels, plus a dwindling food supply and the threat of random fiery explosions.
As Mogadishu crumbles, the South Koreans, out of sheer good will (or perhaps ethnic solidarity), take in the vulnerable members of the North Korean Embassy, underscoring the values of inter-Korean cooperation that would register innocuously were it not for the backdrop of African people meeting bloody fates.
With little interest in elucidating the conflict at hand, much less in distinguishing between the various Somali parties in play, “Escape” is a wildly inadequate history lesson — it’s a silly blockbuster after all.
More offensive is the film’s eagerness to whittle one nation’s traumatic episode into a setting for confectionary escapades, one in which child soldiers are practically punch lines and dead bodies are obstacles rather than people worth mourning.
Toward the end of the film, there’s an immersively zippy car chase through the rebel-occupied streets involving a motorcade armed with books and bags of sand.
For a moment, I was taken out of the film’s context and plunged into the mode of a harmless action-adventure movie. If only! Escape From Mogadishu Not rated. In Korean, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 1 minute. Rent or buy on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.