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From the Fantasia International Film Festival: A Taxi Driver is a Korean drama that is based on a true story, mostly fictionalized as to the driver’s back story because this unnamed brave soul deserves recognition and yet has never been found since the event. The film is the retelling of how a down-on-his-luck taxi driver decided to take a job to drive a German reporter to Gwangju in 1980 without realizing what was actually happening. The German reporter Jurgen Hinzpeter is an actual person and does have a recording of a clip made in 2015 before he passed away in 2016 thanking his brave friend, whom he never got to meet again because he had given a fake name and phone number. The best comparison of A Taxi Driver might be Argo except this is a story about men walking into Gwangju as outsiders and leaving as insiders.
A Taxi Driver starts off in the most lighthearted fashion as we watch this taxi driver drive down the road happily singing along to a song. He makes judgmental comments about university student protesters blocking the road and causing the decrease in clients. Its pretty much every day. It’s done well and we connect with his character immediately. And because so, the first 30 minutes of the film does not prepare you for the rest. The tone gets much more serious, as expected with the material, and becomes incredibly dramatic, all very effectively. Many will know Kang-ho Song, who plays the driver, from the Korean monster movie, The Host. Here he delivers a highly-emotional performance as taxi driver, Sa-bok Kim.
The story is about a deadly uprising in the wake of a student protest and witnessing the discrepancy between what really happened in the media and what the government released. The events are ruthless and this movie captures those heartless and confused, not to mention angry and frustrated moments very well and while this is set in a political background, the uprising itself is really talked about in broad strokes but rather focuses on the civilians and these two men who eventually bond together despite their backgrounds to take this hidden story to tell the world. A Taxi Driver turns into a heavy movie very quickly and also very tense as we follow these two men and their escape.
As mentioned before, Kang-ho Song is outstanding but also there is great work by Thomas Kretschmann as Hinzpeter. As they both struggle to communicate due to the language barrier, we see their communication and views align and understand each other more. It’s truly outstanding and the younger cast, including Jun-yeol Ryu as a university protester connects as well.
A Taxi Driver is a fantastic movie filled with great performances and retells a tense, gripping and emotional time in Korea when they struggled for their nation’s democracy.
Movie description: A Taxi Driver is 2017 historical drama about a taxi driver who helps a German reporter cover the Gwangju Uprising in South Korea.
Director(s): Hoon Jang
Actor(s): Kang-ho Song, Thomas Kretschmann, Hai-jin Yoo, Jun-yeol Ryu