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September 27, 2012

Sector 7

sector 7 poster.jpg

7 gwanggu
Kim Ji-hoon - 2011
Shout! Factory Region A BD

The movie might be dismissed as a Korean creature feature, Alien on a remote oil rig. And the monster, a combination of giant catfish, saber tooth tiger, and other ugly body parts, is not going to be the cause of too many nightmares. And yet, I kept thinking how much this movie made me think of Howard Hawks, not only with his version of The Thing, but how Sector 7 might be appreciated as an updating of the "Hawksian woman".

Admittedly, none of this may be deliberate on the part of the filmmakers, although Hawks' films have created templates used by others. The connection to The Thing begins with the setting, an oil rig somewhere off the Korean coast, populated by a small group of men and two women. This setup also recalls Only Angels have Wings. In Hawks films, these groups are marked by professionalism, as well as their ability to take on risky tasks. Just as the title character in The Thing, the so-called "intellectual carrot", while an unknown and threatening being, is relatively simple, and is dispatched with with relative ease, the demands of the genre sixty years later demand a smarter, more sophisticated creature. It takes greater effort, but the creature in Sector 7 is defeated with even greater mechanical brutality than Hawks might have considered.

Sector 7 2.jpg

The character of Hae-jun, played by Ha Ji-won, strikes me as Hawksian from the get go. Not only is Hae-jun one of the crew leaders, but in her introductory scene she is shown as a woman of action. When there is a problem with the main pipe, Hae-jun wisks from the high end of the rig on a rope, down to the base, joins the men in wrestling the pipe back in place, and dashes over to turn the pressure valves. With her relatively short hair, and white tank top, Hae-jun has something of the appearance of one of the boys, remarked upon by the rig's medic. There is also a scene of Hae-jun demonstrating her motorcycle riding skills which recalls the a scene in Hawks' Red Line 7000. In the Hawks film, the character of Julie is first mistaken for a man because of the way she rides to the motel where race car drivers are staying, as she is disguised by her helmet. Even with the helmet removed, Julie's identity as a woman is still questioned by one of the racers. Hae-jun is not the most feminine of women, with the guys at the rig providing the nickname of "Hard-ass". In a scene of group bonding, the crew member display their most distinctive scars, with Hae-jun showing the broken skin on her back. Putting to doubt any questions about sexuality, it is established early on that Hae-jun is in a relationship with the ruggedly handsome Dong-su. Near the end, there is a brief moment of reversal of traditional roles as it is Hae-jun who fights the monster to save Dong-su.

One might argue that Hae-jun's equality, if not superiority, to the men on the rig reflects societal changes regarding the role of women. To a certain extent this is true. What makes Hae-jun Hawksian is both her role within a primarily male group, and that she is never passive in spite of the everything seeming to go wrong, almost constantly in motion. In comparison, it is the clearly more feminine crew member, a scientist, who finds herself in a situation she can not get out of, victimized by one of the men.

Simply on its own terms, Sector 7 was made to take advantage of new 3D technology, with even the Blu-ray in 3D. That it is about a giant monster can be attributed to the popularity of The Host, at the time of this writing, Korea's biggest hit. There is some serious intent on man versus nature, and the exploitation of the natural world on behalf of business interests that probably aren't altruistic. Some of the special effects are decidedly not that special, but I did like the tiny incandescent sea creatures that become more significant to the story. Especially when heroic characters in movies are seemingly inconceivable unless part of a comic book franchise, Sector 7 should be appreciated for having a woman of action who wears nothing more than a blue collar uniform.

sector7 poster 2.jpg

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at September 27, 2012 08:45 AM