Director Jang Hoon’s A Taxi Driver (Taeksi woonjunsa) (2017) very empathetically narrates a man’s journey from a close-fisted single parent to a vehement patriot. Based on South Korea’s Gwangju uprising, this movie illustrates how an ordinary man can rise above his self-interest and jeopardize his life for a greater cause.
Kim Man-seob ( Song Kang-ho), a cabby, who finds it difficult to make ends meet, suddenly stumbles upon a lucrative offer. Without having the slightest hint of the nature of that job, he snatches it from a fellow taxi driver. The assignment is to take a German reporter ( Thomas Kretschmann) to Gwangju and then drive him back to Seoul before curfew. But Gwangju is writhing in civil unrest. Man-seob, unaware of the turbulence he is heading towards, is hugely excited about the large sum of money he has been promised. But the moment he realizes the gravity of the situation, he tries his very best to flee.
Whether he makes it back safely to his daughter, who is clueless about her father’s whereabouts, or he gets entangled in the vicious circumstances and never returns to Seoul..you can never predict this until and unless you reach the very dramatic climax. As the story progresses, we are introduced to some selfless rebels, who are fighting for the cause. When the opportunism of the protagonist is compared with the benevolence of the protestors, you might feel tempted to hate the former. But quite predictably Man-seob couldn’t hold on to his expediency and transforms himself to a man of virtue. The director very efficiently strikes a balance between an impassioned fictional tale and an atrocious historical event.
The movie’s USP lies in the performances of some well known and some unknown Korean actors. Song Kang-ho’s immaculate performance as the widowed taxi driver will make you feel every bit of his happiness, anxiety, remorse and pride. But sadly Thomas Kretschmann falls flat in his role as the German Reporter.
Coming to the screenplay of the movie, in order to simplify the twisted political scenario, they deliberately avoided some facts and replaced them with soothing fiction. But the proficiency of the director helps us to overlook these flaws. The tight camera work, beautiful locales and the sharp-edged storyline collectively make it an edge of your seat political thriller.
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Overall “A Taxi Driver” is a celebration of faith, friendship and patriotism. It might not be remembered as a great one in the history of cinema, but it will unfailingly trigger a sense of nationalism in its audiences.