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'EXIT' tells of hilarious escape from city engulfed by toxic gas

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Yoona, left, and Jo Jung-suk, co-stars of disaster action film
Yoona, left, and Jo Jung-suk, co-stars of disaster action film "EXIT," demonstrate the same pose they did for the film's poster during a press conference for the film at a local theater in southern Seoul, Thursday./ Yonhap

By Park Jin-hai

Blockbuster disaster films targeting the peak summer season mostly focus on the tragic, life-threatening moments. However, director Lee Sang-geun's new disaster action film "EXIT" says he strived to inject humor into the genre, allowing audiences to enjoy amusing scenes along with the human moments.

Jo Jung-suk, lead actor co-starring with Yoona of Girls' Generation, said the film has it all ― hilariously funny moments, white-knuckle action and tear-jerking scenes. Jo takes on the role of a young unemployed man called Yong-nam, who used to be an excellent climber in his college climbing club. The film revolves around him and his former college climbing club friend Eui-joo, played by Yoona, when their reunion gets interrupted by a mysterious toxic gas that has engulfed the entire city.

"The film started from the question of what would happen if a skill, regarded as lowly and useless in normal situations, became a life-saving skill in emergencies," said director Lee during the press conference for the film at a local theater in Seoul, Thursday.

In the film, Yong-nam has been looking for a job for years after graduating from college while Eui-joo managed to get work but is also struggling with the tough realities of life. The two otherwise ordinary citizens are thrown into a great urban escape mission.

"The first image that I came up with was a young person wearing face masks, running out of a dusty cloud. I tried to combine such an image with the young people of today, struggling to survive," the director said.

He added that he gave a lot of thought into how they would fight their way out of the catastrophe. "Adding some funny elements, I worked hard to create a unique disaster film."

Jo introduced his character as a loving family man with low confidence due to repeated rejections at job interviews.

"At a time of crisis, he is a great, courageous man who risks his life to lead his family and Eui-joo to safety," the actor said, adding that he empathized with his character, because he also struggled with his confidence when he had to retake the national college entrance exam again and again.

With the film, Yoona bagged her first lead role on the big screen. She said she accepted the role, because this new character was refreshing.

Comparing the character to her previous roles she said, "Eui-joo is a more active and responsible female character. I believe my new character will give me a wider range of opportunities in the future."

Yoona received training at a climbing school for months before shooting the film. The director praised her for her dedication. "I was so surprised. She did most of the action scenes without a stunt double. The climbing scenes were physically exhausting but she did them on her own until her hands were shaking. I have this respect and appreciation for her as an actress," the director said.

Hoping that the film will become "an exit from the summer heat waves" for movie fans, Jo said, "It's about half action and half fun. Or some audiences might feel the ratio is six to four. People might burst out laughing unexpectedly, at times when the characters are engaged in some serous action performances."

Director said the best part of his latest film lies in the survival plans rather than the crisis itself. "Actors run, climb and do wirework. The scenes in which the duo actively resolve problems they faced, using the things that were available in the vicinity, will be thrilling and cathartic for the viewers," he said.

"EXIT" will hit local theaters on July 31.

Park Jin-hai


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