Reality is you don’t always need the gimmick…
On Netflix today, Carter is a frenetic one take action ride that while entertaining and effective actually over complicated itself with the gimmick of making a film with no cuts.
Two months into a deadly pandemic originating from the DMZ that has devastated the US and North Korea, “Carter” awakens, with no recollections of his past. In his head is a mysterious device, and in his mouth, a lethal bomb. A strange voice in his ears gives him orders. The bomb may go off at any time — unless he rescues the girl who is the sole antidote to the virus. But the CIA and a North Korean coup are hot on his heels.
From writer/director Jung Byung-gil who you’d know from films like The Villainess & Confession of Murder manages to give us a fun ride here with Carter but it’s ultimately a little too frenetic as it leans on the single take style moving the narrative at a mile a minute to make it feel more like a video game than anything else.
It’s a strong script (even when it gets a little too twisty and turny with the conspiracy and thriller elements in it all) but in adopting the one take, no visual edits style the camera tends to be flying across the screen to the point that it feels like a video game and is occasionally disorienting to the viewer.
To his credit though, Byung-gil steps on the accelerator in the narrative from minute one and doesn’t ease up for a second in its 132 minute run time. It’s all a lot of fun, but we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that it takes the viewer up to the point of very literal exhaustion. Frenetic cinema can be fun, but everyone has a limit and this film certainly does push it.
That being said, young star Joo Won is actually why this movie manages to remain engaging. He’s adept and managing action and has charisma for days as he’s jumping through windows and covered in blood and he’s mowing down every obstacle in front of him. But as the stakes get raised we get even more emotionally invested in the character thanks to those few select moments where Byung-gil takes his foot off the accelerator and allows the occasional moment of character development to seep in.
Sadly the movie just movies way too fast to allow us to really get engaged with some of the other characters because they are usually too busy in some sort of over CGI’d gun fight or action sequence which in full disclosure happens a fair bit in this movie.
At best, Carter is the Korean equivalent of a movie like Hardcore Henry. It’s one hell of a wild ride that you can easily have fun with in the moment just be sure not to blink while watching it as it throws so much detail at the screen, even the most avid film lover would have trouble keeping up.