Review. Default brings the financial crisis of 1997 to life through three different parallel stories.
Synopsis. What if bank loans had been given out without proper oversight? What if the average consumer was lied to by the banks and the government about the state of the economy? What if the International Monetary Fund (aka the IMF) came to bail you out but their conditions for the cash would forever change the fabric of the country? This is the basis for Default.
More Details. Default is a 2018 Korean film with three stories that bring the financial crisis to life. The primary perspective is that of the banks and the government. This story stars Kim Hye Soo as the bank adviser that foresees the crisis, tries to change the government’s path during the crisis. The secondary perspective is by an equally insightful financial mind (Yoo Ah In) who sees the crisis as an opportunity to profit. The third perspective is from a small business man (Heo Joon Ho) trapped by a bad loan that he ends up holding the bag for.
What I liked about Default:
Gripping Story. This story by writer Eom Seong Min was strong from the first frame to the last. The crisis was identified and fought against. Not everyone had the country’s best interests in the forefront…some saw it as a chance for individual profit and positioning. The film is based on real events, but that doesn’t stop the viewer from wanting the results to be different. The IMF is not portrayed in a flattering light. But if the conditions they forced on the country are even half-true, the IMF was not looking to strengthen the country but rather open the country for foreign investors’ gain. The production of the film was top notch. The director (Choi Kook Hee) and producer (Lee Yoo Jin) set a relentless pace. You were in the whirlwind of the financial crisis.
Kim Hye Soo as the fiduciary voice of reason. She foresaw the issue, but they wouldn’t listen. She had strategies to stem the side, but they wouldn’t listen. She begged them not to accept the IMF mandates, but they wouldn’t listen. She was continuously belittled by a top official for being a woman and therefore her ideas were suspect. That was hard to watch. Kim Hye Soo gave the character a resilient edge. Anyone watching the movie wanted her to succeed in knocking sense into the officials that needed it.
Yoo Ah In as the visionary financial genius. He foresaw the issue and managed to convince some with wealth to go all in with his strategy to profit from the crisis. Ever time he correctly guessed the Government and the banks’ wimpy response. There was a moment when he seemed to recoil from the profit from human misery but quickly recovered. That was a bit jarring. I almost wished he’d hadn’t had a moment of seeing the human suffering then proceeding as planned.
Heo Joon Ho as the small business man who didn’t want to accept the loan based on a promissory note. But that was the way things were done and he signed the loan putting his business, his family, and his way of life at risk. He struggled to find a way out, but his options were limited. The weight of his employees, his family, his business partner, etc. steadily grew. His despair at being engulfed by the financial crisis was palpable.
What I did not like about Default:
Ending with the potential for hope. I am all for hoping things improve. I want to believe that 20 years later things could be different. But given what I see in my own country (USA), I’m jaded…it seems to bear out that those in power (government and industry) care about maintaining and growing personal power and profit above all.
Default is a financial movie winner. The actors spearheaded the three stories so you were drawn into them and wanted them to succeed, find enlightenment, and overcome adversity. I was pleasantly surprised I enjoyed this film as much as I did.