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Ashfall (백두산, 2019) Review

Ashfall 2019 korean film movie

Ashfall (2019) Synopsis

One of the biggest explosions in Korean history happens on the Mountain of Baekdu. The Korean peninsula turns into chaos at the sudden disaster, and additional explosions are expected to engulf both the South and the North. To stop the worst disaster in history, Jeon Yoo-kyeong (Jeon Hye-jin-II) plans an operation based on the theories of geologist Professor Kang Bong-rae (Ma Dong-seok), who has been studying the Baekdu Mountain explosion, and Special Forces agent Jo In-chang (Ha Jung-woo), who is about to be discharged from duty, and gets put in a secret mission where the fate of the North and South Korea is at stake. In-chang succeeds in making contact with Ri Joon-pyeong (Lee Byung-hun), North Korea’s first-class resource in the armed forces holding the key to the operation. However, Joon-pyeong makes things difficult for In-chang with questionable behavior. Meanwhile in Seoul, Choi Ji-yeong (‘Suzy’) struggles to survive the disaster, not knowing that In-chang was on a mission in the North. In the meantime, the final Baekdu Mountain explosion gets closer and closer…!

— from HanCinema

The Good

The actors’ performances were good. Even Suzy was alright. VFX was done by Dexter Studio, which is arguably the best in Korea, so it’s pretty good.

Ri Joon-pyeong is a great character that drives the movie forward while providing laughter and suspense.

The Bad

The plot is essentially the same as every Korean disaster movie ever made, namely Pandora (판도라, 2016). A disaster happens, and male protagonists has to put himself in danger to save his loved ones (i. e. women, who pretty much only exist as motivation for these men to save the country), overcoming governmental incompetence. It is entirely too predictable and corny.

Doesn’t really pass Bechdel test.

The music tries too hard to be grand and majestic, especially in the last explosion scene. Honestly no music at all would have been better.

The science of it all is flimsy at best. The military and international relation situation seems illogical and unrealistic even to a non-expert like me.

The way some events unfold just do not make sense and there is no explanation. Like how did this pregnant woman who fell into the river find her way to the bus to Incheon with her evacuation documents relatively intact?

I also can’t help but feel iffy that 25 year old Suzy’s husband and baby daddy Ha Jung-woo is 41 years old.


If you aren’t a pedant like me and a few unanswered questions wouldn’t bother you, I’d say it’s enjoyable. If you haven’t watched many Korean disaster films, it’s worth a watch because Ashfall is probably one of the most well-made ones out of films of this sort.

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