Netflix Review: Korean Thriller ‘Lucid Dream’ Explores Every Parents’ Worst Nightmare [Opinion]

The science fiction thriller Lucid Dream from South Korea is one of the newest original-branded offerings by video-on-demand provider Netflix that features K-pop star Park Yoo-chun as a supporting character.

As the Inquisitr previously observed, Netflix is aggressively moving from a movie and TV show video library to an original content programmer.

Netflix acquired the international streaming rights for the genre-combining Lucid Dream following its relatively brief theatrical release in South Korea earlier this year, where it underperformed. Nonetheless, the JYJ3 fan site indicates that Lucid Dream is only the second instance when Netflix “bought in advance a Korean film’s global copyright and decided on distribution all around the world.”

According to the Korea Herald, “lucid dreaming is an elusive state in which you consciously know you are dreaming. Unlike a regular dream where there is no control over what you experience, a lucid dream offers you the possibility to control your surroundings.”

Warning: Spoilers follow.

First-time director Kim Joon-sung acknowledged that he was partially inspired by Christopher Nolan’s Inception. The imaginative Lucid Dream plot is far less elaborate/complicated and more linear than the 2010 Hollywood film, however. Note that the final confrontation in Lucid Dream bears some similarity to the Leonardo DiCaprio opus.

The premise of Lucid Dream revolves around high-profile, Seoul-based investigative journalist and single father Choi Dae-ho (A-list actor Go Soo), whose young son is kidnapped while they are visiting an amusement park. Dae-ho is immobilized by a drug dart while he helplessly watches his son being abducted.

Given Dae-ho’s line of work in exposing corruption, the implication is that the kidnapping is a form of retaliation by powerful political or corporate forces, and as the events unfold, it remains to be seen whether that is the motivation or just misdirection. Ransom is not part of the narrative.

Fast forward three years later, the understandably obsessed dad is still trying to find his missing son and the culprits behind the kidnapping and seeking any form of guidance. An internet search reveals that lucid dreaming helped solve some crimes in other countries. It turns out that So-hyun (Kang Hye-jung), the director of a local sleep research lab, just so happens to be the protagonist’s childhood friend, and she agrees to hook him up — literally — with an experimental lucid dream drug and to sophisticated monitoring equipment to enable his attempt to revisit the day of the kidnapping to find more clues.

(The totally absent mom’s whereabouts all this time are never definitively explained.)

Unlike the spinning top in Inception, the dreamers in Lucid Dream distinguish between the real world and the dream state by checking whether the second hand on their watch is ticking. Those who wear digital watches are apparently out of luck.

So-hyun warns him that the drug has harmful side effects and that remaining in a lucid dream for more than 10 minutes poses dangers, but neither factor actually plays out in the movie to any large extent. A sympathetic yet conflicted police official (Seol Kyong-gu) helps investigate the cold case, as does a loyal private detective (Park In-Hwan). As an aside, while a number of crime dramas out of South Korea portray the constabulary as incompetent, this movie, to a degree anyway, portrays the police as on top of the situation.

The storyline advances to shared dreaming, or hacking into someone else’s dream in the name of finding more clues, and that’s where boy bander Park Yoo-chun plays a key role as a shadowy facilitator.

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The plot contains many twists and turns, plus a major swerve with about a half hour left to go, and viewers can decide whether it’s a true surprise or whether it was telegraphed earlier.

Along these lines, a Korea Herald review gave the mind-trip less than a ringing endorsement, describing it as mediocre.

“The film moves back and forth between the dream world and the real one as Dae-ho desperately attempts to track down his son’s abductors. And because the audience has no other choice but to see exactly what Dae-ho sees in his dreams, every hint about the kidnapping is exposed too early…The people Dae-ho meets in the process of resolving the case kindly explain why they did what, lessening the fun of the story…The positive side is the visual effects used by rookie director Kim Joon-sung to portray the dream world, which are all very realistic. The best thing about Lucid Dream is its lead actor Go’s persuasive emotional performance as a father who is desperate to find his lost son…”

Similarly, like so many potboilers particularly in America, at least one of the bad guys in Lucid Dream follows a path that the Samuel L. Jackson character in Kingsman specifically warned against after he captured secret service agent Harry Hart.

“You know what this is like. It’s like those old movies we both love. ‘Now I’m going to tell you my whole plan, and then I’m going to come up with some absurd and convoluted way to kill you, and you’ll find an equally convoluted way to escape.’ Well, this ain’t that kind of movie…”

Lucid Dream movie review

Apart from Dae-ho apparently not having a job (unless he’s on an extended leave of absence), some plot points that don’t add up include whether a crook would pay with a credit card rather than cash in circumstances where the last thing he’d want is to be tracked/identified by authorities and why another dude would just happen to keep an important and incriminating photograph in his wallet three years down the road.

Netflix originals are a mixed bag, and as a practical matter, any review is based on the quality of the content plus a viewer’s mood/expectations when he or she plops down on the couch. That said, you may not want to sleep on Lucid Dream.

At 101 minutes with some profanity and lots of violence, the generally fast-paced Lucid Dream is rated TV-MA and may be unsuitable for those under 17. If you can suspend your disbelief during the running time, you may find Lucid Dream to be a gripping thriller.

[Featured Image by Olesia Bilkei/Shutterstock]