Carter review: Netflix’s new movie puts action above all else - The Verge
Korean star Joo Won stars in Netflix’s new action showpiece Carter, which is streaming on August 5th and puts fast-paced spectacle at the forefront.
Netflix has released many glitzy, action-filled episodic series this year, including All of Us Are Dead and Money Heist: Korea. But its next big action piece is a film, Carter, which stars Joo Won in the leading role. The usually clean-cut heartthrob image of Joo Won undergoes a startling transformation here into the rugged, ruffian-like Carter (the namesake of the film’s title). Carter is directed by Jung Byung-gil, who has made his career out of his stylized, high-octane action direction in films like The Villainess (2017) and Confession of Murder (2012).
Viewers who are looking for a solid action film will find plenty of thrills in the captivating, sleekly edited Carter, where its action sequences are all woven together to give the film a “one take” effect. There are stunning aerial views of rooftop fights and waterfall escapes, alongside spine-tingling chases through dimly lit cavernous rooms — with the increasingly familiar backdrop of tension between North and South Korea thrown in. What Carter sets out to accomplish in action, choreography, and set design, it pulls off with great aplomb.
However, those looking for a more character-driven story or who have a lower tolerance for long, elaborate action sequences might find Carter’s 132-minute runtime a bit too overwhelming.
Carter begins with an exposition-heavy introduction, noting that the Korean peninsula is grappling with a dire infectious outbreak of the “DMZ virus.” The viral infection creates “animal-like behaviors” and increases violent tendencies in the infected. Leaders from North and South Korea are working together to create an antibody treatment using the blood of Doctor Jung’s daughter, named Ha-na, who was cured of the DMZ virus infection through her father’s research. However, Doctor Jung (Jung Jae-young) and Ha-na (Kim Bo-min) go missing during a transfer arrangement to North Korea, where the doctor was supposed to further his research and mass-produce a cure for the virus at the Sinuiju Chemical Weapons Institute. There, crowds of infected North Korean patients are also held in quarantine. Meanwhile, Carter wakes up and finds a mysterious voice giving him instructions through an earpiece. He has no choice but to follow through with the mission as he has a lethal bomb embedded in his mouth.
The DMZ virus outbreak takes place only 10 months after a cease-fire between North and South Korea, with the armistice in delicate balance amid distrust on both sides over the botched transfer of Doctor Jung and Ha-na. The geopolitical backdrop and health crisis provide the necessary narrative stakes amid the film’s nonstop whirlwind of action. There is also a whole cast of fascinating characters: foreign liaisons, North Korean Workers’ Party members, military leaders, intelligence agents, infectious disease doctors, and children. Unfortunately, each of them is only lightly used (with the exception of young Ha-na); they exit as quickly as they enter, leaving viewers to rue the missed opportunities to deepen the film’s storytelling and character arcs.