REVIEW: Concrete Utopia (Um Tae-hwa, 2023)

Sep 20, 2023
Concrete Utopia Movie 2023
Photo from Columbia Pictures

Um Tae-hwa’s Concrete Utopia did not hesitate to launch its disaster right at the beginning.

A major earthquake leaves the city of Seoul in ruins, except for one apartment building that was left standing. In an effort for survival, the remaining residents decided to band together to create a unified community while facing the challenge of outsiders trying to go in.

The large-scale threat of Concrete Utopia creates an opening to explore the nuances of humanity up to its basics. The residents of our central apartment had to create a new government for their community, and food had to be something that needed to be found, not bought. These small details bring to light a great detail that in the face of loss, humans must go back to their most essential fragments to make them complete again.

Concrete Utopia Movie 2023 - Lee Byung-hun as Young-tak
Photo from Columbia Pictures

The film confidently discusses this, and the director Um Tae-hwa has a firm understanding of why making a disaster epic requires going back to the roots of being human. It’s almost imperative to magnify your characters from the ground up before being blindsided by what’s happening around them.

Thankfully, Concrete Utopia has a solid cast to support this. Lee Byung-hun stars as the leader of the apartment building, and his dark turn halfway through the movie creates an effective shocker. Park Bo-young and Park Seo-Joon were also great as a married couple who learned the unsettling intricacies of their neighborhood.

It’s easy to endorse Concrete Utopia as a satire disguised as a genre film, but seeing it unravel as such throughout the viewing was a great experience. As South Korea’s Best International Feature Film submission to the upcoming Oscars 2024, the film is very inclusive in the themes it delves into. I’m already expecting this as an audience favorite when it comes out.

Concrete Utopia is now showing in cinemas nationwide from Columbia Pictures Philippines.


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