Escape from Mogadishu is a historical thriller set during the Somali Civil War in the early 1990s, as both the North and South Korean embassies lobbying the Somali government for support to be admitted into the United Nations. Although based on a true story, Escape from Mogadishu also relies on tropes expected of genre films, which adds familiarity and excitement to a historical narrative many may not remember. It is also idealistic in nature, which is not necessarily a bad thing for a film traversing the complex relationship between North and South Koreans. In many ways it reminded me of similar South Korean films, such as Joint Security Area and Swing Kids.
While in Somalia, the capital city of Mogadishu, the war reaches each of the embassies, putting the Korean citizens inside in danger. Han Sin-seong (Kim Yoon-seok), the chief ambassador in Somalia, is able to acquire protection from the Somalian military at a cost, but the rioters break into the North Korean embassy, forcing them to flee. With nowhere else to go, the North Korean ambassador Rim Yong-su (Heo Joon-ho) turns to the South Koreans for assistance. The two countries join forces in their efforts to survive and escape, while remaining consistently suspicious of each other.
Even as the citizens from each country are struggling to make it out of the situation alive, South Korean intelligence officer Kang Dae-jin (Jo In-sung) and North Korean intelligence officer Tae Joon-ki (Koo Kyo-hwan) continue to use the opportunity advantageously. Kang attempts to use the situation to try and convince the North Koreans to defect, and Tae reacts violently to this assumption. Even with no political agreement between them, the survivors must find a way to trust each other in order to escape the country safely.
Escape from Mogadishu amps up the excitement with shootouts, fistfights, and a climactic car chase sequence, but the film is actually most effective in the quieter moments between the characters. Perhaps I was simply filtering the narrative through the context of my own country’s current political climate preoccupied with division and conflict, but it was the intimate efforts between the citizens from opposing countries that were most engaging to me. An early sequence of a shared meal in which one side is automatically suspicious of poisoning eventually gives way to a bond which each knows must be set aside once they have escaped.
The special features on the Blu-ray release of Escape from Mogadishu include a featurette about the making of the film. There is also a trailer.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance: 6/10
Special Features: 3.5/10