May 1980. A Seoul taxi driver named Man-seob (SONG Kang-ho) comes across an offer too good to be true. If he drives a foreign passenger from Seoul down to Gwangju and back again before the curfew, he’ll be paid the unthinkable sum of 100,000 won – enough to cover several months of unpaid rent. Without stopping to ask the details, he picks up the German reporter Peter (Thomas Kretschmann) and sets off along the highway. Although stopped by police roadblocks at the edge of Gwangju, Man-seob is desperate to earn his taxi fare, and eventually manages to find a way into the city. There they encounter students and ordinary citizens taking part in large-scale demonstrations against the government. Man-seob, alarmed by the danger in the air, pleads with Peter to go quickly back to Seoul. But Peter ignores him, and with the help of a university student Jae-sik (RYU Jun-yeol) and a Gwangju taxi driver named HWANG (YOO Hai-jin), begins shooting with his news camera. As time passes the situation …
User Reviews: Kang-ho Song is a widowed driver with a young daughter, just scraping by. When an opportunity comes up to drive a foreign reporter to a small city under martial law for 100,000 won, he takes it. On the way, he discovers that South Korea is a dictatorship that people are being killed for no good reason, and that ordinary people have standards of ethical behavior, even taxi drivers.
It’s a beautifully made combination of staged and stock footage. Thomas Kretschmann, playing the German reporter, looks a lot like the man his character is based on, although handsomer in a Liam-Neeson way. The way it portrays ordinary people rising to the moment is well done. If, like many a South Korean movie I have seen, it seems more violent than other national cinemas, then perhaps that is a salient feature of the national industry.