A Taxi Driver – Movie – Review

A Taxi Driver - Poster

Revisiting the democratic uprising of Gwangju

Synopsis

In May 1980, German reporter Peter (Thomas Kretschmann) works on an assignment in Tokyo, but the news is slow there. He hears from a colleague that something ominous is occurring in Gwangju, South Korea. The phone lines have been completely cut off to the city. Peter decides to go there.

Native and/or alternative titles: 택시 운전사
Year: 2017
Countries: South Korea
Languages: Korean, English, German
Genre: Action, Drama, History, True Story
Director: Jang Hun
Writer: Uhm Yoo-Na, Jo Seul- Ye
Cast: Song Kang-Ho, Thomas Kretschmann, Yu Hae-Jin, Ryoo Joon-Yeol, Park Hyuk-Kwon

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Review

The Gwangju Massacre is a tragic historical event in Korea’s struggle for Democracy. Due to various political reasons, the then Military President Chun Doo Hwan who was a dictatorial leader brutally attacked and authorized the murder of a number of demonstrators who were protesting against the military occupancy of the Gwangju area as well as against the military regime and martial law which were very harsh and brutal. The Gwangju Massacre which took place in 1980 and the people’s movement was known as The Democratization movement or the Gwangju Uprising as well. Here is a Wikipedia link for those who want to read up more about it. 

Rallying - A Taxi Driver
The reporter filming a bunch of college students who are rallying

Putting the historical and political facts on the backburner, if I simply talk about the movie then it was truly a masterpiece. I loved each and every moment of it. It was touching and heart-warming and funny as well. I feel that the movie also depicted the events quite brilliantly.

So there are two main protagonists in the show, one is a taxi driver and the other is a foreign journalist. The taxi driver, Kim Man-seob, is a taxi driver in Seoul who has a great affection for his taxi because it is a link to his wife who passed away a while back. He works hard and with principles in order to earn money to pay back his debts and provide a good living for his young daughter. One day while eating at the restaurant he accidentally hears about a foreign customer who needs a taxi to ferry him down to Gwangju and back and he is willing to pay a hefty amount for it. Seizing the opportunity he quickly lands up to pick up the tourist and starts his journey to Gwangju, completely oblivious to the consequences of his greed. As he heads to Gwangju things seem slightly out of the ordinary as there are check posts on the way. Eventually, the army stops his taxi but he somehow manages to get them through.

Song Kang Ho - A Taxi Driver
The taxi driver with his precious daughter

This foreign tourist is actually a foreign correspondent journalist who heard about large-scale protestations taking place in Gwangju against the military regime in South Korea and decides to head there to cover the news despite the strict restrictions and censor in place. During this time the whole of South Korea was under curfew but Gwangju being the head of the military regime was completely sealed off from the rest of Korea and the world when the revolts started. Even the nearby small villages and towns didn’t have the slightest idea about the atrocities being committed by the army in Gwangju.

The journalist, Peter, was the first person to capture the reality of the situation in Gwangju and reveal it to the entire world because of which international pressure was placed in South Korean government to seize their atrocities towards the common people of the city. Both Peter and Kim Man-soeb worked really hard together, risking everything in order to get the news footage out to the world. Even though Kim Man-seob fought moral fights with himself while there because he landed up in Gwangju without knowing the actual reason for going there. He simply believed that this was a tourist who wanted to tour Gwangju or maybe a businessman who came for work purpose, he never could imagine the scale of the tragedy taking place in Gwangju.

Thomas Kretschmann - A Taxi Driver
The reporter filming the protesting mob from inside the taxi

The entire story is beautifully produced, the script is top class and the actors are the gems of the story. Each and every main, supporting and extra actor did a remarkable job to portray the desperation, fear and bravery of the people of that time. The movie makes you laugh and cry but most important question how humans can kill their own kind so ruthlessly even in these modern times. But at the same time, one can truly appreciate the humanity and kindness that arises in moments of such desperation and cruelty. Each and every single person’s tiniest effort is how Peter managed to get the new footage and escape to Germany in order to tell the world about the horrors taking place. Many died and many survived because of those unknown small heroes who gave up their lives in order to create a better tomorrow.

Thomas Kretschmann - Song Kang Ho - A Taxi Driver
The Taxi being stopped at the checkpost

This movie is based on the true story of the German journalist Jürgen Hinzpeter who is depicted as Peter in the movie. In an interview, he mentioned how he misses and wishes to see Kim Man-seob again but no matter how much he tried he could not find him. Kim Man-seob was based on Kim Sa-bok who was an untold hero. No one can tell how much of Kim Man-seob’s story is true because his role was only discovered after his death. The movie is made from Jürgen Hinzpeter’s perspective.

This is really a beautiful story and really worth watching. I would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat. Do watch it! It is definitely worth your time.

Have you seen this movie? If yes, what do you think about this movie? If not, does it sound interesting to you? Comment below! 

About Poornima

A Korea-phile by nature~ Love everything Asian and originally from India. Fluent in Korean language and knows Chinese language as well. Has Masters in East Asian Studies (with special interest in Korean culture and politics)

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