This is a tough review to write without dropping spoilers, but I will try. In fact, I would also recommend not watching the trailer because it drops a huge spoiler that will rob you of the feverish fun you are going to have. Trust me, go in blind and like me you will come up for breath 90 minutes later with a big smile.
This is a mystery drama revolving around a doctor Kim Joon Young (Kim Myung Min) who is just returning from a successful humanitarian overseas trip. He arranges to meet his headstrong young daughter Eun Jung (Jo Eun Hyung) on the day of her birthday. On the way to the rendezvous, he witnesses a car accident and realises she was killed in it. And then the day starts all over again for him…
Yes, A Day is South Korea’s version of Groundhog Day (1993), a time loop genre film. The most recent successful exponents include Timecrimes (2007), Triangle (2009), Edge of Tomorrow (2014) and Source Code (2011). The dynamics of the game are the same – the protagonist either uses the loop to his/her advantage (getting into the pants of Andie MacDowell as in the case of Groundhog Day), or he/she tries to solve the puzzle of the loop so that time can be linear again, or he/she feels the loop is a second chance to avert a disaster from happening as in the case of Source Code and Edge of Tomorrow. A Day doesn’t differ in all these aspects, but what it does spectacularly well is that it throws not one but two spanners in the works that gives the over-tired genre a kick in the butt.
The movie switches gear effortlessly. The first act feels recycled and familiar, but Kim Myung Min anchors the horrendous scenes compellingly well. Witnessing your daughter’s death and not being able to do anything about it is definitely a sickening feeling. At a lean, mean and spry 90 minutes, the movie has hardly any fats. It moves forward (or is it repetitively?) propulsively and doesn’t waste time in letting the protagonist feel his way through the time loop puzzle. The character behaves like he is weaned on time loop movies and quickly gets down to the job of solving the puzzle and asking himself why he is in a loop. The premise is so compelling that it kept me front and centre, wondering how he will unlock the puzzle of the waking nightmare. Just as when you start to think you are cruising along a well-treaded narrative path, writer-director Cho Sun-Ho drops a bombshell and your eyes will grow wide as saucers. No, I won’t share what it is and please don’t go check out the trailer too.
Cho’s previous screenplay is the derivative horror-killer flick Killer Toon (2013). A Day marks his debut as a director with a screenplay also written by him. This is a vast improvement and it put a gleeful smile on my face as I walked out of the cinema. It is not just an action thriller; it is also a concerted cogitation on consequences and redemption.
4 / 5