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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "D-Day"

2016/01/30 | Permalink

The disaster genre is an ambitious one. For one, a pure disaster work can be very expensive to make, depending on the event which brings about said disaster. It is also one which depends a lot on sustaining suspense. Attempting such a work in the form of a Korean drama is quite the brave move on behalf of its creators. Whether this hybrid of a series counts as a success depends on how far one expects its bravery takes it.

When a devastating earthquake destroys Seoul, Lee Hae-seong (Kim Young-kwang), Jeong Ttol-mi (Jung So-min) and Park  Ji-na (Yoon Joo-hee) find themselves trapped in a collapsing clinic. After gathering the wounded and reaching their main hospital, they and other members struggle to save lives, cooperate through clashing ideologies and keep things going. At the same time, the power-hungry director is trying to minimize his responsibilities at the cost of human life.

Hospital staffTtol-mi and Hae-seong

The pre-production system is now being increasingly embraced by channels, with major cable television stations having largely moved most of their works to partial pre-production. A large part of "D-Day" was filmed ahead of airing and this quality shows throughout. This is a very good-looking drama, it uses its special effects and sets wisely and manages to maintain that quality from start to finish. The series is also written well enough that it remains suspenseful. The medical procedures, emergency situations and character conflicts are more often than not involving and the dangers feel real.

For the most part, the character types and interactions are used well. The romantic elements present could have very easily taken over the series in a manner which would belittle the dire nature of the disaster. Instead, these romances never overstep their boundaries and even add to some situations nicely. The series has diverse and strong characters many of which get their time to shine, there are engagingly conveyed bonds and it is lovely to see a lot of strongly written women as well, something dramas sometimes fail at.

Unfortunately, old habits die hard and this turns into a more typical Korean drama in its latter half. The biggest flaw of "D-Day" is its villain. Lee Kyung-young does his job very well, as usual, but the character of Park Geon is insufferable and in the wrong genre. He is a typical cartoonish baddie with refined hobbies and a thirst for power. He exists to be annoying, repetitive and thwart the male lead's efforts. When a town is literally falling apart, focusing on an unstable patriarchal figure looming over everyone only to bring them to ruin is a major waste.

Il-seop and Woo-seongDirector Park

Ultimately, "D-Day" abandons its disaster and medical genres even more by injecting conveniently appearing and disappearing main character illnesses, overly dramatic focus on the main characters' interpersonal relationships, and cheap, obvious twists complete with a very people-pleasing and predictable ending. This is especially disappointing considering its disaster theme hands the show enough dramatic potential on a silver platter without the need for dipping into the pool of Korean drama clichés and plot-padding material.

"D-Day" is an inspired series. It tackles a genre which is done rarely even in Korean cinema. It has great production value, it keeps one at the edge of their seat when it does its job well and it does so in a quality, entertaining manner. The drama does therefore largely succeed in its efforts. It is just a shame that the industry has still not learned to let a good thing be and bow out gracefully.

Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'


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