Where am I? What’s going on? Why am I in danger? If these are questions you enjoy in your movie experience then Carter, a South Korean film by Jung Byung-gil, has you covered with its opening scenes.
It also has you covered with its middle scenes. The ending scenes probably cover you too…
It’s not that it’s impossible to figure out what’s going on: far from it. The general plotting is simple enough to follow.
What Is Carter About?
There’s one of those zombie-like pandemics going around but the kind that makes the infected faster and more violent than a Black Friday sale.
There’s a scientist and his daughter who have created a cure, but they are missing.
Both the South and North Korean forces, along with the US CIA, are hunting them down. It seems like Carter kidnapped them, but he awakes blood-soaked and with no memories. The race is on.
And thus the race stays on. Director Jung thumbs his nose at movies made of several continuous unbroken shots (see 1917). No…Carter is one single unbroken shot. For two whole hours.
From the moment that Carter (Joo Won) awakes, disoriented and with a strange cross-shaped incision in the back of his head, the camera is stuck to him like glue as he battles for survival.
Carter Official Trailer
Is Carter Worth Watching?
At first this is exhilarating. Won has commanding presence as an embattled action hero with Herculean endurance and the fighting skills to match. As he claws his way out of a bath house scene (be prepared for a lot of buttock) the desperate struggle to escape is a thrilling one.
The problem with Carter is that it is mono-syllabic; come the end of the first hour you are desperate for a break.
The headache is amped up further by camerawork that is less ‘steady tracking shot’ more ‘stick it in the tumble drier’. The camera – clearly relying on a lot of digital post production and CGI to stitch shots together – rotates and toggles zoom like someone watched the Matrix on fast-forward while drunk.
It’s nauseating and perversely has a detrimental effect on our enjoyment of what appears to otherwise be slickly executed stunts and impressively physical performance from Won.
When the action does occasionally slow down for some chat this adds little to the movie. Carter has a voice in his head claiming to be from South Korean intelligence who help him stay alive at the start.
It isn’t long though before all parties (the North, the South, and the CIA) are pointing fingers and crying ‘double cross’ on each other. Following who is or isn’t being duplicitous is superfluous and makes the downtime nothing but an excuse to grab some paracetamol for the camera induced brain ache.
There is an exciting action movie struggling to get out in Carter. A car chase sequence where Won struggles to protect a young girl from battling forces is slick and relentless. You get two aerial sequences for your money involving a deadly culmination of events for one and helicopter struggles in the other. Taken alone, these are nail-biting set pieces.
The problem is that by that point you have already been visually beaten senseless. When you come too bloodied up, all that will linger in the memory of this two-hour extended fight is that your head hurts.
Words by Mike Record