TAE-HO is a sweeper-up of different individuals’s orbital junk, a mudlark in area scavenging something of worth. In Jo Sung-hee’s new film Area Sweepers, he’s somebody who’s most alone in a crowd – that’s to say, amongst his crewmates on the spaceship Victory. They’re a predictable assortment: a feisty robotic with removable ft; a closely armed but disarmingly gamine captain; a gnarly however lovable engineer with a previous.
Tae-ho is performed by Music Joong-ki, who additionally starred in Jo’s romantic smash hit A Werewolf Boy (2012). Music is the most recent in an extended line of South Korean actors whose utter dedication and lack of ego can deliver the sketchiest script to life (suppose Choi Min-sik in revenge tragedy Oldboy, or Gong Yoo in zombie masterpiece Prepare to Busan).
Tae-ho has a secret. As a baby soldier, culling troublemakers in orbit, he as soon as saved the lifetime of just a little woman, adopted her, was ostracised for it, hit the skids and misplaced his cost in a catastrophic orbital collision. Now he desires her again, at any value.
The near-magical mega-corp UTS can resurrect her utilizing her DNA signature. This is similar outfit that’s making Mars prepared for settlement, however just for an elite 5 per cent of Earth’s inhabitants. The remainder are left to perish on the desertified planet. All that’s wanted to revive Tae-ho’s ward is extra money than he’ll ever see in his life, regardless of how a lot junk he and his mates clear.
Then, as they tear aside a crashed shuttle, the crew discovers 7-year-old Kang Kot-nim (Park Ye-rin), a woman with a secret. She could not even be a woman in any respect, however a robotic; a robotic who is probably not a robotic in any respect, however a bomb. Promoting her to the very best bidder will get Tae-ho’s daughter again, however at what ethical value?
“You possibly can’t assist however suppose that area might simply really feel like this: frenetic, unreasonable, a meat grinder for the soul”
South Korea’s first space-set blockbuster is, in a single facet a minimum of, a really conventional movie. Like a lot of South Korean cinema, it explores the moral penalties of disparities of wealth – how simply poorer individuals may be corrupted, whereas the wealthy face no ethical checks in any respect.
However what do all these high-minded, high-octane shenanigans need to do with area junk, just like the 20,000 synthetic objects with orbits round Earth that may be tracked? Or the 900,000 bits of junk between 1 and 10 centimetres lengthy? Or the staggering 128 million items which are smaller nonetheless and but might wreak every kind of havoc, from scratching the lens of an area telescope to puncturing an area station’s photo voltaic array?
Nothing, and the whole lot. Area Sweepers is an area opera, not Alfonso CuarÓn’s Gravity. The director’s curiosity within the physics of low orbit begins and ends with the mechanics of quickly rotating our bodies. And boy, do they rotate. On a surprisingly small finances, the film ravishes the attention and overwhelms the ear as Victory hurtles by means of a cluttered, industrialised void, all proper angles and vanishing views. You possibly can’t assist however suppose that whereas area could by no means appear like this, it might simply really feel prefer it: frenetic, crowded, unreasonable, ungiving, a meat grinder for the soul.
Equally, whereas the very actual drawback of area junk received’t be solved by marginalised refugees in clapped-out spaceships, this movie has hit on some reality. Cleanliness isn’t a advantage as a result of it’s too straightforward to pretend: simply dump your filth on anyone else. It’s simply wealth, admiring itself within the mirror. Actual advantage, says this foolish however very likeable movie, comes with filth on its arms.
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