“Now I understand why Kang killed all his buddies”
GP 506 is the second feature film from writer/director Kong Su-chang, following his well received debut movie R-Point. I probably should have reviewed R-Point for this site already but despite it being a well made & impressive debut it is also an overly long ghost story & those of you familiar with me & this site will know that I am a less than enthusiastic fan of ghost movies. It is for that reason I haven’t sat down to re watch R-Point for the purposes of a review here. GP 506 is, like R-Point another military horror. This time instead of ghosts we get a mixture of R-Point, The Bunker & The Crazies.
GP506 is an outpost on the border of North & South Korea in the DMZ (demilitarised zone) The guard post itself is a huge concrete structure full of maze like corridors. Each tour of duty lasts for three months & the soldiers are armed with live ammunition at all times. On the 29th May 2007 M.P.s break into GP 506 searching the facility room by room until they find a room full of blooded corpses & one survivor, coated in blood holding an axe. The man is disarmed & placed into custody. Sergeant Noh is called in to investigate what happened at GP 506 & is told he has untill 6am the next day to find out what happened before the army arrives & covers it up. Once at GP 506 Noh informs Lt Bang whose M.P. unit found the man with the axe that he will be assuming command. Noh goes to see the survivor, now in a coma as the doctor is preparing to move him & the bodies of the dead to HQ. He discovers the man was Corporal Kang. Checking the post’s records, Noh realises they are one man short & unaccounted for. The soldier is found hiding in the complex & identified as 1st Lt Yoo, head of GP506. Struggling to understand & piece together what happened at GP506 & running short of time Noh begins to notice strange behaviour in his own men & it soon becomes apparent that they might be dealing with a virus with deadly consequences.
GP506 is a movie I wanted to like. It’s beautifully filmed & takes its time establishing plot & character. Sadly the movie is confused & way too long for its own good. The story of what happened to the original unit at GP506 is told in intermittent flashbacks throughout the film including a couple of important plot twists. These flashbacks are at first very hard to follow. With all the soldiers past & present wearing full camouflaged military fatigues including helmets, filmed in the dark it is very hard to make out who is who & there is no clear sign when the movie moves between timelines making the first hour very hard to follow. Only once the characters are established does this become somewhat easier to follow. The plot itself is actually very simple & didn’t need two hours to tell the story. While I commend Kong Su-chang for taking his time to create atmosphere & tone there were many times during the film I wished the pace would pick up. GP506 doesn’t really seem to know what kind of movie it wants to be. The beginning hints at Park Chan-wook’s Joint Security Area. The middle of the movie hints at Su-chang’s earlier R-Point & ends like a Korean version of The Crazies. The movies climax doesn’t do the film any favours. The origins of the virus & what it is are never explained & the ending feels almost rushed which is surprising for a movie that moves with an almost pedestrian pace. There is also one scene that hints at a zombie style infection which is never followed up & at complete odds with everything else in the movie. Despite this there is a lot to commend in this movie. The setting of GP506 is wonderfully atmospheric & foreboding & the cinematography is excellent. The acting too, is first-rate. Its an ensemble piece & each & every actor puts in a fine performance. For me GP506 is a paradox. It should have been great, it just wasn’t.
GP506 is movie which a lot of people may enjoy. I would certainly advise anyone reading this to watch the movie & make their own mind up. Personally for me this movie just didn’t deliver but as they say, one man’s fish is another man’s poison. Worth a watch if you like slow-moving mysteries.