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[Herald Review] ‘Hijacking 1971,’ honest-to-goodness action flick based on true story

June 24, 2024 - 15:04 By Kim Da-sol
Ha Jung-woo plays Tae-in in “Hijacking 1971.” (Sony Pictures Entertainment Korea, Kidari)

When it comes to films based on true events, whether a politically charged event or life of a heroic citizen, the biggest disappointment for the audience often comes in teary moments or an overly dramatic ending.

Director Kim Sung-han’s crime action film “Hijacking 1971” follows a simple plotline centering on a good-hearted pilot Tae-in (played by Ha Jung-woo) over its 100-minute-long running time.

Ha’s portrayal of a former fighter jet pilot Tae-in, who was dismissed from the Air Force for not obeying his superior's order to shoot down a passenger plane, is genuine and down to earth.

The movie quickly moves to two years later, 1971, when Tae-in copilots a passenger plane bound for Seoul's Gimpo International Airport from Sokcho in Gangwon Province. Soon after takeoff, an in-flight emergency breaks out as the plane is hijacked by Yong-dae (played by Yeo Jin-goo). What does he want? Without clearly saying why, he forces the pilots to redirect the plane carrying 51 passengers toward North Korea.

“Hijacking 1971” is based on the hijacking of Korean Air flight F27 carrying 55 passengers and five flight attendants on Jan. 23, 1971. Eleven of them are still missing and are believed to be stuck in North Korea.

Instead of overly dramatizing the real event, Kim focused on portraying the characters.

Tae-in is a humane and big-hearted man who prioritizes the safety of passengers in this life-or-death situation. Gyu-sik (played by Sung Dong-il), the chief pilot, shows a mature attitude as a veteran pilot and takes steps as the circumstances demand. Ok-soon (played by Chae Soo-bin), a young flight attendant who is willing to actively support the pilots, takes the lead by putting the passengers' minds at ease.

The actors who played passengers, such as the CEO of a company and his executive assistant, a rookie prosecutor and his mother who can’t speak, a newlywed couple, a young student and a woman in her 20s, show realistic moments when one's life is at risk.

Yeo Jin-goo stars as Yong-dae in “Hijacking 1971.” (Sony Pictures Entertainment Korea, Kidari)

Yeo plays a villain for the first time as hijacker Yong-dae, expressing the roughness of a character who bears a grudge against humankind after he was falsely charged and imprisoned. His anger only grows when, upon returning home, he discovers the body of his mother who had died alone.

While some may find Ha and Sung’s rather calm acting throughout the movie unfamiliar, the duo seems to have focused on showing a simpler, restrained acting. There is not a single scene in which the two exchange witty jokes, a big change from “Take Off” (2009), a film on ski-jump in which the two actors exchanged a lot of lighthearted banter.

“Hijacking 1971” opened in local theaters on Friday.