[Writer's Choice] Film Review: Taxi Driver

Johan Qin, Oct. 6, 2017, 2:09 p.m.


"If I could meet you just one more time, I would be so happy. I would fly to Seoul in an instant, ride in your taxi and see the new South Korea with you." - Jürgen Hinzpeter, October 2015

At once heartbreaking, stirring, and intensely and utterly captivating, the film 'Taxi Driver', directed by Jang Hoon, is an absolute tear-jerker of a movie. The 2017 historical drama/action, which stars Song Kang-ho as taxi driver Kim Man-seob and Thomas Kretschmann as German reporter Jürgen "Peter" Hinzpeter, depicts the incidents of the tragic 1980 Gwangju Massacre and the perilous circumstances that the taxi-reporter duo put themselves through to bring truth and light to the violent dictatorship of the Chun Doo-hwan administration. The duo, whose courage and bravery allowed the rest of the world to witness the atrocities happening in the Jeolla province city, give an exceptionally memorable performance that is equal parts funny and somber.

I can't count the number of times I felt my eyes water up at the scenes unfolding before me: innocent civilians murdered in cold blood for protesting against injustice; friends sacrificing themselves for their friends; Kim and Peter realizing the cruel oppression of the militia regime as they unleashed chaos upon the rebellion; and more. These scenes struck an unbelievably deep chord within me, one that evoked sorrow and pain for those who were unjustly killed by police like Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Tommy Le. The political nature of the film couldn't come at a better time. Our world has been rocked by unrest and a profound dissatisfaction towards the state of our political conditions. Similar to the candlelight protests that took place before the impeachment of Park Geun-hye and the NFL anthem protests that have been making rounds around the nation and the news, the revolution of the Gwangju Uprising starkly reminds us of the indispensible necessity for courageous journalism, social justice, and civil activism in the face of tarnished human rights. 'Taxi Driver' shows how differences must be put aside to make progress both nationally and internationally, and Song and Thomas displayed a briliant relationship in which moral duty and loyal brotherhood trumped language differences and individual discomforts.

'Taxi Driver' is a film that South Koreans can be proud of. On top of showcasing the spirit and arduous history of the South Korean people, the film also performs exceptionally well on a technical and cinematic level. Emotionally gushing music complements the actors' performances powerfully, and the dual usage of filmed footage with stock footage creates a historically accurate storyline that is bolstered by dramatic fictional effect. Without a doubt one of the best -- if not the best -- Korean films I have ever seen, 'Taxi Driver' is a must-see film due to its remarkable ambition and success in conveying the importance of the past on our daily modern lives.

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