The future: researchers at a deep-sea laboratory have invented a time machine. Burdened by financial stress, head researcher Woo-seok is promised more funding, but only if he can successfully complete a test flight. Ji-wan tries to stop his colleague and lover, Young-eun, from going too, but she joins the mission with Woo-seok, and they travel to 11 A.M. the following day. They arrive to find their deep-sea laboratory on the verge of collapse. All the researchers have gone and somebody is out to kill them.
Jae-yeong Jeong (Moss), Ok-bin Kim (Thirst), and Daniel Choi (Cyrano Agency) star in Kim Hyeon-seok's taut sci-fi thriller, a new film that attempts to juggle complex human emotions with lean action thrills. The opening act is certainly intriguing, as a ragtag team of scientists learn that HQ has ordered a full evacuation in just two days. The crew are reluctant to leave, and not even the thought of spending Christmas on the surface is enough to change their minds. Woo-seok's wife died two years before the mission started and he longs to find a cure for her cancer. Young-eun hopes to follow in her father's footsteps, and there's a feint possibility that he's living in the future having made time travel possible.
Ji-wan has been in a relationship with Young-eun for seven years, so he's reluctant to let her leave on a foolhardy quest to secure further funding. The plan is to go forward in time by one day, but they only have enough power to do it for 15 minutes. Sook and Moon - another doting couple aboard the high-tech love boat - provide fleeting support, but their roles are less defined than the others, which is usually a sign that they're not going to make it. Doc is another member of the crew, and though he's quick to point out that he doesn't have a PHD, he does have an inferiority complex, which should hold them in good stead when the shit truly hits the fan.
Somebody tries to kill Woo-seok in the lab and Young-eun doesn't make it back in time, but that really is the tip of the iceberg. They can't go back to rescue Young-eun because they don't have enough power, but because these events have taken place one day in the future, all they have to do is sit it out, right? Don't you just love the power of time travel. Upon learning that the lab is set to explode in the next 24 hours, CCTV footage depicts a crew member on fire. But who is it, and what or who could've caused such a devastating turn of events? Time to put the paracetamol on standby because where we're going, we don't need roads.
11 A.M. might not break new ground but it is a solid genre entry all the same. With a small cast, limited locations and focus very much on character, Kim Hyeon-seok has created a tense and chilling ride. Time travel movies can get confusing if they're not handled correctly, but the writers of 11 A.M. should be applauded for avoiding hereditary pitfalls. The characters are well-rounded, and the animosity that develops between the warring factions is enough to keep the film from straying off course. It's evident early on that things aren't going to end well for all of the crew members, but it's how we get that counts, and the writers of 11 A.M. are certainly up to the challenge.
Hardly inspiring but rarely dull, 11 A.M. is a satisfying sci-fi thriller with strong performances, memorable characters and decent production values. Moody, atmospheric and rewarding, Kim Hyeon-seok's time travel chiller gets enough right to warrant a first (and second) look. Check it out. AW