THE STORY – The film takes place when an accident occurs on a foggy bridge and, as a result, an unknown beast is unleashed.
THE CAST – Lee Sun-kyun, Kim Su-an, Ju Ji-hoon, Moon Sung-geun, Ye Su-jeong, Park Hee-von, Park Ju-hyun & Kim Hie-won
THE TEAM – Kim Tae-gon (Director/Writer), Kim Yong-hwa & Park Joo-Suk (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 101 Minutes
From director Kim Tae-gon comes the South Korean creature feature “Project Silence,” an enormous blockbuster disaster action flick with horror elements. In the past, Tae-gon has helmed films such as “The Sunshine Boys” (2012) as well as “Familyhood” (2016), though his Cannes premiere far outweighs the others as the most enormous undertaking in his career so far. The film consists of tons of special and practical effects, CGI hounds, and a massive scale for the filmmaker to play with. But does it all come together to create a thrilling and satisfying viewing experience?
The premise of “Project Silence” consists of a series of car accidents that take place on an eerie, fog-engulfed bridge. A bunch of random strangers are stranded in the pile-up with no expectation for when help will arrive. The main character we mostly follow on the bridge (with the most significant audience attachment) is a recent widower and government official (“Parasite’s” Lee Sun-kyun) who is seeing his daughter (Kim Su-an) off to Australia. Earlier, they get into an altercation with a gas station attendant (a crazed, over-the-top Ju Ji-hoon) who brings his tow truck onto the scene following the multiple car accidents. There’s also an elderly couple (Moon Sung-geun and Ye Su-jeong) returning from a trip abroad and two sisters (Park Hee-von and Park Ju-hyun) who missed their flights. On top of this, all of them (and many more) get caught in a deadly conspiracy gone wrong spearheaded by the researcher responsible for what is known as Project Silence, Dr. Yang (Kim Hie-won), when mysterious government-created beasts (hyper-aggressive, intelligent, strong, and fast hounds) are released with a secret agenda to hunt and destroy whoever they’re programmed to target amidst the unfortunate souls trapped on the bridge. The characters scramble to survive and escape as the horrors of the dangerously deadly government secrets are revealed.
With a similar vibe to films such as “Train to Busan” and “Final Destination,” “Project Silence” had all the makings to be a good time. Instead, the film comes off as a gimmicky, lower-quality copy of these other successful projects and makes several fatal mistakes along the way, squandering its initially enticing premise. With paltry CGI, the film is a hard sell as it heavily relies on its visual effects at the core of its action. With a lean into the wavering effects quality, embracing the charm that lower-budget flicks carry, “Project Silence” could’ve been quite a different and perhaps more enjoyable film if it didn’t try to present itself as an expensive blockbuster and instead was forced to get more creative with its action and horror.
The lackluster visual effects could’ve been forgiven if we could connect with any of the main characters. However, the characters are underdeveloped and, in some cases, slightly insufferable. With these aspects already lacking, it doesn’t help itself that there is a very apparent deficiency in logic throughout the film. Character rationale, in general, is frequently questionable, and the sci-fi logic behind Project Silence is mostly nonsensical. While these aspects can often be overlooked, with all its faults compounded, it becomes difficult to shake any of them.
This quasi-disaster film isn’t a complete disaster, though. The set-up and vision for the film are exciting. If the character work had been stronger and the beasts remained hidden for a bit longer instead of being shown to the audience right at the beginning, it could’ve been a great reveal. The setting of a fog-engulfed, disintegrating location is also a fantastic way to create and build tension, so it’s a shame it gets bogged down by silly character interactions, distracting CGI, and an idiotic plot that so desperately wants you to take it seriously when it should’ve leaned into its more ridiculous tendencies. This film could’ve taken an entirely different approach to its story and overall tone. Still, in attempting to set its absurd plot in some form of reality, nothing comes together cohesively or is executed in a manner that wholly works.
Perhaps if “Project Silence” had embraced the ludicrousness and silliness of its set-up, committing to a more satirical, obviously apparent mimicry of other catastrophe films, it could’ve been a great disaster and monster flick. There was a lot of potential to create a sci-fi action horror film akin to Bong Joon-ho’s “The Host.” However, it just misses one too many marks, making it a forgettable, big, and embarrassingly less-than-impactful blockbuster.