A shipping container full of immigrants is smuggled into South Korea by human traffickers. By the time the container is opened, all the passengers are dead, except for one survivor, and before long the highly contagious strain of bird flu which killed them begins to spread through the city.
The virus becomes a political football for complacent politicians under pressure from US allies to prevent an international outbreak, and more concerned with approval ratings than saving anyone. The city is put on lockdown, its people thrown into camps and tested for signs of disease but the real question is, what are the authorities doing with the infected?
Meanwhile, doctor and single mother Kim In-hae (Soo Ae) is saved from a car wreck by Ji-gu (Jang Hyuk), a rescue worker who befriends her daughter Mirre. The search for a cure becomes personal for her when Mirre begins to show symptoms of the deadly bug.
Flu is an energetic but cliché-heavy disaster flick that offers one part pluck to two parts unimaginable coincidence and a dash of comic relief from an adorable kid. However it does feel like well-trodden ground and its love subplot has been done to death, if you pardon the pun.
Director Sung-su Kim builds his city-wide pandemic story on domestic foundations, tugging at our heartstrings through this imperilled family unit when really the sight of people coughing up blood was enough. He hits hardest when showing the big picture, most shockingly in a scene which shows the scale of the infection but also in smaller moments where basic human rights and dignity have been stripped away.
Yet the tone feel disjointed and the plot twists in a straight line. Connections between the main players are so far-fetched that it’s hard not to be jerked out of the experience.
If Flu didn’t veer so much towards sentiment, it would hit its mark a lot harder. If you’re looking for an updated version of Outbreak then this is your film, but brace yourself for a smattering of schmaltz and some obvious plot twists.