Successfully Unsubscribed

Please allow up to 10 days for your unsubscription request to be processed.

Concrete Utopia (2023) - Movie Review

Movies & TV

By Leo R.

- Dec 12, 2023

In metropolises across the globe, the cost of shelter has skyrocketed. The pace of development has failed to meet increasing demand, turning even average condominiums into coveted commodities. But as the Korean futuristic film 'Concrete Utopia' so aptly reminds us, even grand living quarters offer little consolation when faced with impending doom.

The hustle and bustle of Seoul grinds to a catastrophic halt when an extinction-level earthquake rips through the city, reducing virtually everything to rubble and claiming countless lives. One exception to the devastation is the fortified Hwang Gung Apartments, where inhabitants face the grim decision of harboring non-residential survivors or condemning them to perish in the frigid wilderness that used to be a vibrant metropolis. The narrative unfolds through the perspective of young couple Min-sung (Park Seo-joon) and Myung-hwa (Park Bo-young) who frequently disagree on how to best survive in the grim reality. The storyline also includes the building's assumed leader, the enigmatic Yeong-tak (Lee Byung-hun), whose past within the community is a mystery to his fellow residents.

In a world void of governance, the apartment dwellers resort to establishing strict rules to maintain order. The legalistic environment sets up intriguing dilemmas as desperation and scarcity influence residents' actions.

Concrete Utopia (2023) - Movie Review

Esteemed director Um Tae-hwa presents a grim yet comedic outlook on the future. The film's title, 'Concrete Utopia,' is itself an absurdity, highlighting that the apartment block, though it shields inhabitants from hostile conditions, cannot safeguard them from starvation and other dreadful threats. The director and creatives vividly portray the grim surroundings, complete with battle-worn garments and the worrying reality of dwindling water supplies. The picture painted is reminiscent of a dystopian 'Lord of the Flies' scenario, where civil society disintegrates under severe conditions. Despite the pessimism, the movie hints at the glimmer of hope clung to by the apartment dwellers.

The film's commendable performances come from its three central characters: civil servant Min-sung, nurse Myung-hwa, and intruder Yeong-tak. As Min-Sung, Park Seo-jun delivers a powerful performance as he quietly grapples with his conscience. Park Bo-young's portrayal of Myung-hwa offers a beacon of optimism under extraordinarily trying circumstances. Meanwhile, Lee Byung-hun presents the deceptively intricate character of Yeong-tak, gradually revealed by director Um over the course of the film.

Overall, although 'Concrete Utopia' may have strived to achieve more than it ultimately delivered, the movie keeps viewers on edge with its exploration of how scarcity impacts humanity. While watching dwindling food supplies change people's behavior towards their lowest instincts can be darkly comic, the questions remain: what does it tell us about our civilization, and how likely are apartment owners to lend aid to the less fortunate in a post-apocalyptic world? Despite being an unsettling speculative scenario, 'Concrete Utopia' is a slightly shallower exploration than the massive craters left by the film's devastating quake.


8 / 10

Discover how a high-rise community navigates survival and scarcity in post-apocalyptic Seoul in the thought-provoking sci-fi thriller, 'Concrete Utopia.'