Soo-ah must escape the labyrinthine subway station

Blind (블라인드) – ★★★☆☆

Blind (블라인드)

Blind (블라인드)

The impairment of a leading protagonist in a film can often allow an actor or actress to stretch themselves into new territory and offer startling performances (and, more cynically, guarantee some silverware). Daniel Day-Lewis’ turn as an artist with cerebral palsy in My Left Foot (1989) is perhaps the most significant, but other actors including Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind, 2001), Denzel Washington (The Bone Collector, 1999) John Hurt (The Elephant Man, 1980) and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech, 2010) amongst many, many others have all conveyed the difficulties that impaired people face. With Blind (블라인드), Kim Ha-neul (김하늘) takes on the role of a visually impaired woman and in doing so has won the 2011 ‘Best Actress’ award at both The Daejong Awards and The Blue Dragon Awards. Quite how is something of a mystery, as Kim Ha-neul’s performance, as well the film itself, rarely rises above mediocre.

Blind tells the story of promising police cadet Min Soo-ah (Kim Ha-neul) who, through an accident partly of her own making, loses her sight. Life becomes a struggle for Soo-ah as the fast-paced world around her is seemingly intolerant of her impairment. Whilst attempting to find her way home one evening, Soo-ah becomes a witness in an abduction case and must use her training and heightened senses to help find the killer. Complicating matters further is the second witness, Kwon Gi-seob (Yoo Seung-ho (유승호), who gives a contradictory testimony of events. Joined by Detective Jo (Jo Hee-bong (조희봉), Soo-ah and Gi-seob must solve the mystery together, before the killer finds them first.

Min Soo-ah (민수아, Kim Ha-neul 김하늘) and her faithful guide dog

Min Soo-ah (Kim Ha-neul) and her faithful guide dog

Films representing impairment tend to focus on the adversity that is endured and finally, over the course of the narrative, overcome. With Blind, director Ahn Sang-hoon (안상훈) makes minimal effort to convey the hardships Soo-ah faces, representing rather obvious and fleeting problems such as crossing the road, which seem redundant as she walks with her guide dog. Ironically the colour is drained in the exterior sequences through utilising filters, in an attempt to emphasise the cold and harsh outside world. Such devices do little to create empathy however, due to not only the lack of innovation but also Soo-ah’s stubborn nature that places herself in precarious situations. That said, other sequences such as a subway chase where Soo-ah must use floor tiles to find an exit as quickly as possible, are filmed and edited in a thrilling fashion and offer a refreshing take on the genre. One of the fundamental issues of Blind is that Ahn Sang-hoon and screenwriter Choi Min-seok fail to make any of the protagonists compelling enough to forge empathy with, and thus when the 2-dimensional characters are in peril the lack of engagement equates to flat, rather than thrilling, scenes.

Soo-ah must escape the labyrinthine subway station

Soo-ah must escape the labyrinthine subway station

The actors generally give competent performances despite this. Kim Ha-neul is certainly prominent in this regard as a visually impaired woman, with occasional sequences that are convincing as she struggles with daily activities. Yoo Seung-ho is adequate as rebellious teen Gi-seob, as is Jo Hee-bong as foolhardy Detective Jo, yet they are never given the opportunity to display more than their supporting statuses will allow. Unfortunately the worst offender is Yang Yeong-jo as gynecologist-turned-serial-killer Myeong-jin. Again, this is not entirely his fault as the role itself is so woefully underdeveloped that Yeong-jo is merely present to appear menacing and snarl and cackle occasionally.

as rebellious teen

Yoo Seung-ho as rebellious teen Kwon Gi-seob

Verdict:

Blind certainly had the potential to be an interesting and creative take on the thriller genre, but unfortunately due to the lack of character development and innovation it is a rather bland and mediocre offering. The actors involved all provide competent performances despite the limitations imposed on them, while Kim Ha-neul is somewhat convincing as a visually impaired witness. Blind does contain a select few sequences that provide enjoyable thrills, and while certainly no masterpiece, it offers enough entertainment to be an interesting viewing experience.

★★★☆☆

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The 48th Daejong Film Awards – 2011

Often referred to as ‘The Korean Oscars’, the 48th Daejong Film Awards were held in at the Sejong Center in Seoul on Monday the 18th.

The 48th Daejong Film Awards

As usual, the red carpet was rolled out for the stars and for their fashionable entrances. Here are pictures of the actors, actresses, and couples that attended.

This year was interesting, as while the films nominated were certainly very good, there was no clear winner that was expected to steal the show. Instead, the awards were spread quite evenly amongst the nominees.

For Best Picture, the award went to Korean war film ‘The Front Line’ (고지전). The film, directed by Kim Ki Duk (김기덕) protege Jang Hoon (장훈), also went on to scoop the awards for Best Production, Best Cinematography, and Best Lighting.

Best Actor went to Park Hae Il (박해일) for his role in action/adventure film ‘Arrow: The Ultimate Weapon/War of the Arrows’ (최종병기 활) (currently with 2 English working titles). The film also scored awards for technical achievement, winning Best Sound and Best Visual Effects. The Best Supporting Actor award was given to Jo Seong-ha (조성하) for his role in gritty action thriller ‘The Yellow Sea(황해).

Kim Ha Neul accepts Best Actress award

Kim Ha Neul (김하늘) won Best Actress for playing a blind woman in crime thriller Blind(블라인드), and accepted her award from ‘You Pet!’ (너는 펫) co-star Jang Geun Seok (장근석) (see here). The award for Best Supporting Actress was scooped by Shim Eun Kyeong (심은경) who appeared in ‘Romantic Heaven’ (로맨틱 헤븐).

The Popularity Award went to The Man From Nowhere (아저씨) star Won Bin, who humbly received his award (here).

Please see here for a full list of the awards, the nominees, and winners from the night.

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