“Blind” is a Korean thriller which takes on the classic suspense theme of pitting a blind heroine against a killer, directed by Ahn Sang Hoon (“Arang”). In this case, the woman in question is played by Kim Ha Neul, marking somewhat of a change of direction for the popular actress, mainly known for roles in romances and comedies such as “My Girlfriend is an Agent”, “My Tutor Friend”, “Almost Love” and others – a move which certainly paid off, with her winning Best Actress at the Daejong Film Awards, the film also taking home Best Screenplay for writer Choi Min Suk. With support from teen actor Yoo Seung Ho (“4th Period Mystery”), Yang Young Jo (“Blades of Blood”) and Jo Hee Bong (“Moby Dick”), the film boasts another star in the furry form of celebrity dog Dolly, who previously featured alongside Yoo in the hit “Hearty Paws”.
Kim Ha Neul plays police trainee Soo Ah, the film beginning with her getting into a road accident that results in her losing her sight and causing the death of her surrogate orphan brother. One rainy night a few years later, she takes a taxi which is involved what she believes to be a hit and run incident. Although the detective assigned to the case (Jo Hee Bong) finds it difficult to take her seriously as a witness at first, he is soon impressed by her superb sense of hearing and her intuition, and starts to believe that the case may be linked to a series of unexplained abductions of young women. The mystery deepens when a young delivery boy called Ki Sub (Yoo Seung Ho) offers a differing account of events, bringing both him and Soo Ah to the attention of the criminal.
Although its premise might be familiar, “Blind” is a superior thriller which definitely benefits from its tightly written, award winning script. Director Ahn manages to keep things tense and interesting throughout, wisely keeping the attention not on the question of the killer’s identity, which is actually revealed very early on, but on how Soo Ah deals with tracking him down and with trying to elude his clutches. On this score the film is very successful, doing a great job of giving the viewer a believable picture of how she makes her way through the world and how her other heightened senses allow her to help crack the case.
At the same time, the film gets a great deal of very effective mileage out of the suspenseful dramatic irony of Soo Ah being stalked by the killer while being unaware of his presence, resulting in some excellent set pieces, including one particularly taut sequence on the subway. While the final act is somewhat generic in its resolution, Ahn maintains a high level of tension throughout and thanks to some cleverly timed revelations from the script and the surprisingly ruthless knocking off of supporting cast members, the film offers some top notch jolts and thrills, with a few flashes of nastiness and gore thrown in for good measure.
The film really does belong to Kim Ha Neul, who is superb as Soo Ah, never playing her as a victim or allowing her blindness to be manipulated as a cheap gimmick. Despite her tragic past, the script plays strongly on themes of responsibility and empowerment, and she makes for a compelling and sympathetic protagonist who the viewer sticks with through to the end. Thanks to this, Soo Ah’s budding sibling relationship with the surprisingly likeable Ki Sub comes across as genuine and rewarding, Yoo Seung Ho adding depth to what could have been an annoying sidekick type character. Jo Hee Bong also does a pretty decent job in the inevitable comic relief role, his occasional wackiness and incompetence working reasonably well to lighten the mood and even making for a couple of laughs, helping the film to avoid ever getting too grim or taking itself too seriously.
It’s partly this balance which makes “Blind” such an enjoyable thriller, along with Ahn Sang Hoon’s solid direction, Choi Min Suk’s well-crafted script and Kim Ha Neul’s career best turn in the lead. Although it doesn’t really add much to the genre, or to the blind woman in peril theme, it’s a great example of working within the form and making the most of its conventions, resulting in one of the better Korean films of the year.
Ahn Sang Hoon (director) / Choi Min Suk (screenplay)
CAST: Kim Ha Neul
Yoo Seung Ho
Yang Young Jo
Jo Hee Bong