A Taxi Driver

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A Taxi Driver
A Taxi Driver.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Hangul 택시운전사
Hanja 택시運轉士
Revised Romanization Taeksi Unjeonsa
Directed by Jang Hoon
Produced by Park Un-kyoung
Choi Ki-sup
Written by Eom Yu-na
Starring Song Kang-ho
Thomas Kretschmann
Music by Jo Yeong-wook
Cinematography Go Nak-seon
Edited by Kim Sang-bum
Kim Jae-bum
Production
company
The Lamp
Distributed by Showbox
Release date
  • August 2, 2017 (2017-08-02)
Running time
137 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean
English
German
Budget ₩15 billion[1]
(roughly US$13.8 million)
Box office US$88.7 million[2]
(South Korea)

A Taxi Driver (Hangul택시운전사; Hanja택시運轉士; RRTaeksi Unjeonsa) is a 2017 South Korean historical action[3] drama film directed by Jang Hoon, with Song Kang-ho starring in the title role, alongside Thomas Kretschmann.[4][5] The film centers on a taxi driver from Seoul, who unintentionally becomes involved in the events of the Gwangju Democratization Movement in 1980.

The film was released on August 2, 2017 in South Korea.[6] It was selected as the South Korean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards, but it was not nominated.[7][8] The film was a commercial success, and was also the second highest grossing film of 2017.[9]

Synopsis

In 1980, Kim Man-seob is a widowed father who works as a taxi driver in Seoul. One day, he overhears another taxi driver talking about a foreign client who has booked him for a trip worth 100,000 won; the client intends to travel to Gwangju for the day and return to Seoul before curfew. Man-seob rushes off to steal the client.

The client is Jürgen "Peter" Hinzpeter, a German journalist who wishes to report on the increasing civil unrest in Gwangju. Due to strict censorship, foreign reporters are prohibited from entering the country. Peter pretends to be a missionary in order to enter South Korea. Man-seob lures Peter into his taxi before heading off to Gwangju.

The two men discover that all the roads leading to Gwangju are blocked and heavily guarded by soldiers. Man-seob tries to convince Peter that they should return to Seoul, but the latter refuses to pay the 100,000 won unless they reach Gwangju. They manage to enter the city after they lie about Peter being a businessman. In Gwangju, they find that all the shops are closed and the streets are deserted. Man-Seob dismisses the severity of the city's state as he believes that the riots were caused by rebellious students. Peter begins to record his observations on his camera, and the two men meet a group of college students who are riding on a pickup truck. [10] The leader of the group, Yong-pyo, invites Peter aboard. They also befriend English-speaking student, Jae-sik. Man-seob decides to turn back, reluctant to have his taxi damaged in the riots. However, he takes pity on an old woman looking for her son; she leads him to the local hospital. The woman's son turns out to be Yong-pyo, who is in the hospital with minor injuries. Peter and the college students scold Man-seob for his selfishness. They refuse to let Peter pay Man-Seob until he fulfills the agreed trip.

Man-seob agrees to take Peter and Jae-sik (now acting as translator) through Gwangju. Protesters greet them with food and gifts. Peter films violent riots and witnesses soldiers beating protesters. Plainclothed Defense Security Command (DSC) officers see him filming and go to arrest him. The three men evade capture. That evening, Man-seob's taxi breaks down and they are met by Tae-soo, one of the local taxi drivers. Tae-soo tows the taxi to his shop for repair. This and the fact that Gwangju's phone lines have been cut distresses Man-Seob, as his young daughter is home alone. Tae-soo lets the men stay at his house for the night.

During dinner, they hear an explosion and discover that the television station has been bombed. They head there and Peter films the turmoil. The officers recognize Peter and chase the three men; Jae-sik is captured. He yells for Peter to share the footage with the world before he is taken away. Man-seob is assaulted by the leader of the DSC, who accuses the driver of being a communist. Peter rescues Man-seob and the pair run back to Tae-soo's house.

At dawn, Tae-soo gives Man-seob fake Gwangju license plates as the soldiers are now searching for a Seoul taxi. Alone, Man-seob drives to the nearby town of Suncheon, where he overhears reports of the events in Gwangju; the media falsely claims that the chaos was caused by "rogue groups and rioters". He is overwhelmed with guilt and drives to the hospital in Gwangju to find Peter in shock and Tae-soo crying over Jae-sik's corpse. He reminds Peter of his promise to show the world what is happening in South Korea, and encourages him to continue filming.

They film a street where soldiers are mercilessly shooting at civilians. Man-seob and the other taxi drivers use their vehicles to barricade the soldiers from further harming the civilians. The soldiers continue shooting, and the two men arrive at a road blocked by soldiers. Man-seob states that he is taking a foreign businessman away from the turmoil. A young soldier searches the car and finds the license plates from Seoul. However, he keeps silent on the discovery and lets them go. The soldiers then receive orders not to let any foreigners out, prompting them to chase the duo and shoot at them.

The pair are rescued by the local taxi drivers, who ram into the military vehicles to distract the soldiers. The taxi drivers are presumably killed in the chase, and Tae-soo ultimately sacrifices himself to allow Man-seob and Peter to escape. The two men make it to the airport, where they bid each other an emotional farewell. Peter asks Man-seob for his name and phone number as he wishes to return to South Korea to visit. Man-seob hesitates but does so. Peter is able to safely leave the country.

Peter shares the footage with his superiors and the news is spread all over the world. He searches for Kim Man-seob as "Kim Sa-bok", only to be told that the latter had provided a false name and phone number. In Seoul, Man-seob happily reunites with his daughter.

23 years later, Peter receives an award in South Korea for his report on the Gwangju Uprising. In his speech, he expresses his gratitude to "Kim Sa-bok" and hopes to see him again someday. Man-seob, still a cab driver, finds a newspaper forgotten by a customer, reads the article about Peter's speech and achievements including his words of gratitude towards him, and feels touched by these words. He then says out loud that he is more grateful to Peter, and that he misses him too, while holding the newspaper, sitting in his cab alone.

The epilogue states that Peter tried to search for the taxi driver who took him through Gwangju, but he died in 2016 before they could meet again. The film ends with footage of the real Peter, who gives his thanks to "Kim Sa-bok".

Cast

Main

A widowed taxi driver who lives with his eleven year old daughter in a small house. He is an ordinary man from the working class who cares only about his family's livelihood and is uninterested in political issues.[11] The character is loosely based on real-life taxi driver Kim Sa-bok, who ferried Jurgen Hinzpeter to Gwangju. Kim remained out of the public eye until the release of A Taxi Driver,[12] when in September 2017, following the immense commercial and critical success of the film in South Korea, Kim's identity was finally confirmed by his son, Kim Seung-pil. The younger Kim shared with the media a photo of Jurgen Hinzpeter with his father and revealed that his father died of cancer in 1984, four years after the Gwangju events.[13]
A German reporter. The character is based on the life of Jürgen Hinzpeter (1937–2016), the late German journalist who filmed and reported on the Gwangju massacre.[14]

Supporting

A kindhearted local taxi driver
A naive university student who knows English
Kim Man-seob's daughter.
  • Choi Gwi-hwa as Leader of DSC Civvies
  • Cha Soon-bae as Driver Cha
  • Shin Dam-soo as Driver Shin
  • Ryoo Seong-hyeon as Driver Ryoo
  • Park Min-hee as Kwon Joong-ryeong
  • Lee Jeong-eun as Hwang Tae-sool's wife
  • Kwon Soon-joon as Kang Sang-goo
  • Yoon Seok-ho as Hwang Tae-sool's son
  • Heo Jeong-do as Seoul pregnant wife's husband
  • Lee Bong-ryeon as Seoul pregnant wife
  • Lee Ho-cheol as Hong Yong-pyo
  • Lee Young-yi as Hong Yong-pyo's wife
  • Han Geun-sup as University student protester
  • Hong Wan-pyo as University student protester
  • Daniel Joey Albright as BBC Reporter David John

Special appearances

Production

Filming began on June 5, 2016, and ended on October 24, 2016.[15]

Release

The film was released on August 2, 2017 in South Korea.[16] On the same day, the film had its international premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, where Song Kang-ho was named Best Actor for his role in the film.[17][18][19]

According to distributor Showbox, the film will be released in North America on August 11, Australia and New Zealand on August 24, followed by the UK on August 25. It will then open in Asian countries including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan in September.[20][21]

Edeltraut Brahmstaedt, the widow of the German journalist Jürgen Hinzpeter, was to visit Seoul on August 8, 2017. During the visit, Brahmstaedt planned to watch the film based on the true story of her late husband.[22]

On August 13, 2017, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in viewed A Taxi Driver with Edeltraut Brahmstaedt and her family.[23] A Blue House official said, "The movie shows how a foreign reporter's efforts contributed to Korea's democratization, and President Moon saw the film to honor Hinzpeter in respect for what he did for the country."[24] After watching the film, President Moon commented:[25]

“The truth about the uprising has not been fully revealed. This is the task we have to resolve. I believe this movie will help resolve it.”

Reception

Critical response

A Taxi Driver received positive reviews upon its release. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 95% based on 17 reviews, with an average rating of 7.3/10.[a] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating based on reviews, the film has a score of 69 out of 100, based on 7 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[b]

Maggie Lee of Variety wrote, "director Jang Hoon brings a sappy, feel-good touch to a tragic subject" and "Although the film’s portrayal of its main characters has recognizable precedents, the two lead actors calibrate their mutual respect and co-dependency to engaging effect, as the escalating violence and peril heighten their sense of personal mission. Echoing the role of American correspondent Sydney Schanberg in "The Killing Fields", Hinzpeter arrives in Korea as an opportunistic newshound rather than a champion of justice. Kretschmann plays him initially with an unlikable cold efficiency, treating his driver and other Koreans as mere tools or fodder for his article. Impressively, there are no overnight changes in his persona. Rather, the actor maintains a certain stiff composure even as his passion and affection for the democracy fighters visibly grows. The final parting is genuinely touching as the two men now relate to each other as equals."[26]

Sheri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter, in his positive review of the film, wrote, "In unexpected and wonderfully satisfying ways, A Taxi Driver taps into the symbiotic relationship between foreign correspondents and locals, particularly in times of crisis. Though filled with moments of taut suspense and quick action, Jang’s film is also rewardingly unrushed, a quality exemplified by an extended sequence in which the visitors from Seoul share a meal and an evening with Yoo’s Gwangju cabbie and his family. At once sincere, awkward and silly, their respite of calm and laughter amid the terror beautifully underscores the way ordinary lives are caught in the crosshairs of history."[27]

Box office

According to the Korean Film Council, on the first day of the release, a total of 69,890 tickets were sold, which earned US$4.5 million.[28] The film was available on 1,446 screens and was shown 7,068 times across South Korea.[29] By noon on the second day of its run, the film had passed the one million viewer mark.[30]

On the third day, the total audience doubled, attracting two million viewers.[31] The viewer numbers continued to rise as the tickets sale increased to four million by the fourth day.[32][33]

A Taxi Driver has earned a total of US$30.7 million in five days with 4.38 million admissions.[34][35] It has tied with The Admiral: Roaring Currents and The Battleship Island for the record of films which have surpassed four million viewers in the first five days of release. At the end of the first seven days, the film surpassed 5 million admissions.[36][37] On the eleventh day since the opening the film recorded more than 7 million viewers.[38][39]

A Taxi Driver became the most viewed South Korean film in 2017 in less that two weeks since its premiere by attracting more than 8 million audience.[40][41] By August 15, 2017, it has earned a total of US$62.7 million with 9.02 million admissions.[42]

By August 20, in just 19 days since the film was released, A Taxi Driver surpassed 10 million viewers selling 10,068,708 tickets,[43] earning a total of US$73 million.[44][45] A Taxi Driver also became the first film of 2017 and the fifteenth Korean film overall to surpass the 10 million milestone. It is also Song Kang-ho's third film to have sold more than 10 million tickets.[46][47]

The film topped the South Korean box office for three consecutive weekends. By August 28, the film had attracted 11.4 million viewers.[48] According to the film's distributor Showbox, the total attendance of the film surpassed the 12 million mark as of September 9, becoming the tenth most-watched local film of all time in South Korea.[49]

Reactions in China

A Taxi Driver is yet to be released in any form in Mainland China, though it received a theatrical release on September 21, 2017 in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China. The film has received warm responses from users on Chinese movie website Douban, where it had a high user rating.[50] However at around 21:10, October 3, 2017, the film was entirely removed from the Chinese movie portal, the reason possibly being that a number of reviews had compared the film's content to the June Fourth Incident, also known as the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989, which is strictly censored on media in China.[51]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
26th Buil Film Awards Best Film A Taxi Driver Won [52]
Best Actor Song Kang-ho Won
Best Cinematography Go Nak-seon Nominated
Best Music Jo Yeong-wook Nominated
Best Art Direction Cho Hwa-sung and Jeong Yi-jin Nominated
Buil Readers' Jury Award Jang Hoon Won
21st Fantasia International Film Festival Best Actor Song Kang-ho Won [53]
54th Grand Bell Awards Best Film A Taxi Driver Won [54]
Best Director Jang Hoon Nominated
Best Actor Song Kang-ho Nominated
Best Screenplay Eom Yu-na Nominated
Best Music Jo Yeong-wook Nominated
Best Art Direction Cho Hwa-sung and Jeong Yi-jin Nominated
Best Costume Design Cho Sang-kyung Nominated
Best Cinematography Go Nak-seon Nominated
Best Editing Kim Sang-bum and Kim Jae-bum Nominated
Technical Award A Taxi Driver Nominated
Best Planning Won
37th Korean Association of Film Critics Awards Top 10 Films Won [55]
Best Supporting Actor Yoo Hae-jin Won
1st The Seoul Awards Grand Prize (Film) A Taxi Driver Nominated [56][57]
Best Actor (Film) Song Kang-ho Won
3rd Asian World Film Festival Special Mention Award Won [58][59][60]
Best Film A Taxi Driver Won
Humanitarian Award Won
38th Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Film Won [61]
Best Director Jang Hoon Nominated
Best Actor Song Kang-ho Won
Best Supporting Actor Yoo Hae-jin Nominated
Best New Actor Ryu Jun-yeol Nominated
Best Screenplay Eom Yu-na Nominated
Best Music Jo Yeong-wook Won
Best Art Direction Cho Hwa-sung and Jeong Yi-jin Nominated
Audience Choice Award for Most Popular Film A Taxi Driver Won
17th Director's Cut Awards Special Mentions Won [62]
Best New Actor Choi Gwi-hwa Won
25th Korea Culture & Entertainment Awards Best Film A Taxi Driver Won
Best Director (Film) Jang Hoon Won
17th Korea World Youth Film Festival Favorite Director Won
Favorite Actor for Middle-Aged Actor Song Kang-ho Won
4th Korean Film Producers Association Awards Best Actor Won [63]
12th Asian Film Awards Best Supporting Actor Yoo Hae-jin Nominated [64]
Best Original Music Jo Yeong-wook Nominated
54th Baeksang Arts Awards Grand Prize (Film) A Taxi Driver Nominated [65]
Song Kang-ho Nominated
Best Film A Taxi Driver Nominated [66]
Best Director (Film) Jang Hoon Nominated
Best Actor (Film) Song Kang-ho Nominated
Best Screenplay (Film) Eom Yu-na Nominated
23rd Chunsa Film Art Awards Best Director Jang Hoon Nominated [67]
Best Screenplay Eom Yu-na Nominated
Best Actor Song Kang-ho Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ryu Jun-yeol Nominated

See also

Notes

  1. ^ A Taxi Driver at Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  2. ^ A Taxi Driver at Metacritic. Retrieved September 2, 2017.

References

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External links

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