SECTOR 7 Review
It is understandable that expectations were set extremely high for Korean science fiction thriller SECTOR 7. The first Asian film to be presented in IMAX and 3D boasts an A-list cast of internationally recognisable stars and the director of special effects bonanza HAEUNDAE on board as writer and producer. The plot is pure B-movie gold, centring on a genetically mutated sea creature that goes on a killer-crazy rampage aboard a remote oil drilling platform, and seemingly all the pieces were in place for a sure-fire hit. So what went wrong?
Korea's premiere tough gal, Ha Ji Won, plays roughneck Hae-jun who has followed in her father's footsteps working the oil rigs, specifically Eclipse in the notoriously tricky Sector 7. After months of unsuccessful drilling, the bosses back home are about to pull the plug, and Jeong Man (Ahn Sung Ki) arrives to oversee the closing down of Eclipse. Jeong Man used to drill this very spot with Hae-jun's father, and was with him on the ocean floor when he suffered a fatal accident. Hae-jun now looks to Jeong Man as a father figure, but their relationship is about to be tested to its limit.
Oil continues to elude the group, but they discover a school of strange sea creatures, like glowing tadpoles, and a few samples are brought back to the rig for testing. When crew members suddenly start dying particularly violent deaths, and a storm cuts the rig off from the rest of the world, Hae-jun and the rest of the crew find themselves battling for their lives against a large and incredibly dangerous creature.
While the set-up is basically ALIEN on an oil rig, it is James Cameron's sequel that screenwriter Yun Je Gyun borrows from most liberally, with a number of action beats mirroring that film to an almost uncanny degree. There is also a typically amoral parent company, only too happy to put the potential for exploiting a new species above the wellbeing of its own employees. In this case, it has discovered that the creatures are flammable - presumably from evolving in such a fuel-rich environment - and each one can burn for more than 24 hours, making them a potentially lucrative fuel source.
Ha Ji Won, known for playing a series of surly tomboys in films like Lee Myung See's DUELIST and the popular TV series DAMO, is perfectly cast in the Ripley role, but is never given the opportunity to flesh out her role beyond dealing with the immediate situation. She can stand up for herself amongst her feral male co-workers, has a tender relationship going with the crew's token hottie (Oh Ji Ho), and finds time for girl talk with the only other female on board, scientist Kim (Cha Ae Ryeon). But there are too many factors working against her, namely some ridiculous plotting that sees her race motorbikes around the rig with her boyfriend, just for flirtatious kicks, and the fact that Hae-jun is female is ultimately nothing more than a gimmick.
Ahn Sung Ki is his reliable self as the emotionally bunkrupt father figure who sullies the memory of his best friend by putting the life of his daughter at great risk. The rest of the cast fulfill their duties as stock stereotypes on hand to be monster food in a variety of unimaginative and not particularly thrilling kill scenes. In fact it is never quite clear whether the creature is eating people, or just killing them, and quite why it would have developed a taste for humans in the first place. But this is just one of the many examples in SECTOR 7 where the script simply doesn't add up.
A notable failure back home, both critically and financially, it appears overseas distributors aren't even bothering to offer cinemagoers the option of seeing SECTOR 7 in IMAX. While the film screened in Korea in both 2D and 3D it has only arrived in Hong Kong in the latter format, which really doesn't work well at all. Rather than creating an immersive and frightening experience, it only serves to accentuate greenscreened sequences, while giving the image a flat, layered aesthetic, instead of adding depth. It's an additional frustration to a viewing experience already rife with disappointment and is particularly surprising from the region's special effects leader. Admittedly the creature effects themselves are perfectly servicable, but on their own can do nothing to stop the film from sinking to the bottom of the ocean.
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