Cheesy disaster film set on Incheon’s Airport Bridge fails to go for the jugular

Project Silence

Source: CJ ENM / Blaad Studios

‘Project Silence’

Dir: Kim Tae-gon. South Korea. 2023. 101mins

Killer canines are on the loose in Project Silence, an action-thriller dogged by myriad problems. Despite a potentially fetching premise in which a group of disparate individuals are trapped on Airport Bridge in Incheon, their lives hanging in the balance as they are attacked by dogs bred by the military to be assassins, the fourth full-length feature from South Korean director Kim Tae-gon lacks the giddy gusto necessary to tear into such inherently trashy material. 

Roland Emmerich would be proud of the shameless slathering of genre tropes that have been applied to this B-movie feast.

Project Silence screens in Cannes as part of its Midnight section, and further festival play is likely, especially among genre programmers. Kim Tae-gon, whose last film was the 2016 comedy-drama Familyhood, is not going for over-the-top cheesiness, however, which means Project Silence doesn’t boast the type of outlandish execution that can appeal to midnight-movie mavens. That said, Parasite’s Lee Sun-kyun is the picture’s star, which will certainly help raise visibility.

Jung-won (Lee) is a respected presidential aide driving his daughter Kyung-min (Kim Su-an) to the airport as she prepares to study abroad. But because of poor visibility due to thick fog, a multi-car accident takes place on Airport Bridge, stranding hundreds of motorists — as well as an ominous military vehicle containing some mysterious cargo. Soon, Jung-won discovers that the government was transporting dogs that have been programmed to eliminate terrorists, and they have now broken free of the vehicle and are preparing to prey on the helpless humans.

Although aspiring to be a stripped-down, realistic take, Project Silence brings together a whole slew of hoary disaster-flick conventions, including a precarious bridge that’s about ready to topple, a harrowing toxic gas leak, impenetrable fog and ravenous canines. If all that wasn’t enough, there is also a would-be heart-tugging narrative involving a father trying to stay connected to his little girl, who’s growing up so fast. Roland Emmerich would be proud of the shameless slathering of genre tropes that have been applied to this B-movie feast.

Unfortunately, after setting up its juicy scenario and delivering an initial salvo of dog-attack mayhem, Project Silence quickly becomes fairly timid and uninspired. As people run in terror and the pooches pounce, the film echoes superior sequences in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park pictures, with one of Project Silence’s more interesting set pieces, involving a vehicle dangling over the edge of the bridge, directly invoking something similar from The Lost World. Not helping matters is that, while the savage dogs are frightening, the mediocre CGI used to render them undercuts their ferocity. And since the picture eschews much in the way of gore, the tame kill scenes do not even have the benefit of being appropriately gruesome.

The script, co-written by Kim Tae-gon with Park Joo-suk and producer Kim Yong-hwa, seeks to create deeper emotional stakes by making Jung-won a conflicted character, his devotion to his job complicated by the realisation that these killer dogs – part of a top-secret programme called ’Project Silence’ – were conceived during his time overseeing national security. In addition, Jung-won and Kyung-min are still grappling with the death of his wife, who is symbolised by a hardcover book she wrote which Kyung-min still treasures. Naturally, that precious book will be imperilled over the course of Project Silence, but the execution tends to be goofy and ham-fisted rather than moving.

We meet other stranded motorists, each of them possessing one or two stock characteristics. Kim Hie-won plays Dr. Yang, the stressed-out genius who birthed Project Silence, while Ju Ji-hoon does his best to be the comic relief as Jobak, a zany truck driver who grows tiresome over the course of the film. Very much in keeping with disaster-movie protocol, Project Silence presents us with a kaleidoscope of different characters all caught up in the same terrible nightmare, but very few of them have lively personalities – and the same holds true for the film itself. The dogs may be merciless, but Kim Tae-gon never goes for the throat.

Production company: Blaad Studios

International sales: CJ ENM,

Producers: Kim Yong-hwa, Koo Chang-gun, Miky Lee

Screenplay: Kim Tae-gon, Park Joo-suk, Kim Yong-hwa

Cinematography: Hong Kyung-pyo

Production design: Han Ah-rum

Editing: Heo Sun-mi, Lee Geon-moon

Music: Shim Hyun-jung

Main cast: Lee Sun-kyun, Ju Ji-hoon, Kim Hie-won, Moon Sung-geun, Ye Su-jeong, Kim Tae-woo, Park Hee-von, Park Ju-hyun, Kim Su-an