Director/Screenplay – Kim Joon-sung, Producers – Choi Sun-Joong & Hong Yong-su, Photography – Park Hyun-Chul, Music – Jo Yeong-wook. Production Company – Red Pictures.
Soo Go (Choi Dae-ho), Kyung-gu Sol (Chief Song Bang-sub), Hye-jeong Kang (Dr So-hyun Park), Yoo-chun Park (Kwon Yong-hyun), Ho-jin Chun (Jo Myung-chul), Park In-hwan (Kang Sung-pil), Suk-ho Jun (Choi Kyung-hwan), Kang Hoon-kim (Choi Min-woo), Lee Suk (Yoo Sang-man)
Choi Dae-ho, a crusading reporter in Seoul, takes his son Min-woo to an amusement park. There someone abducts Min-woo. Dae-ho is incapacitated by a tranquiliser dart when he tries to run after them. For three years afterwards, Dae-ho and the police search every possible lead but find no trace of Min-woo. Dae-ho then reads about lucid dreaming and persuades So-hyun, a scientist who runs a laboratory studying the phenomenon, to allow him to use her equipment to revisit his memory of the disappearance. There he is able to identify details that he overlooked at the time. He also sees a mystery man in his dream, which turns out to be the paraplegic Kwong Yong-hyun who has invented a process of ‘dream sharing’ that allows him to enter the dream of another. From the clues he has gleaned, Dae-ho finds that the man who took his son was Choi Kyung-hwan who now lies in a hospital bed in a coma. With Kyung-hwan the only one who knows Min-woo’s whereabouts, Dae-ho undertakes the dangerous challenge of entering Min-woo’s comatose mind to find his son. However, there are other parties who want Min-woo and will do anything to stop Dae-ho.
Lucid Dream was a directorial debut for South Korean director Kim Joon-sung. It proved a reasonable international success after being brought up by Netflix.
Lucid Dream is another variant on the dreamscape film. This has enjoyed some success on screen with works such as The Electronic Monster (1960), Dreamscape (1984), The Cell (2000), Nightmare Detective (2006), Paprika (2006), Vanishing Waves (2012), Mindscape (2013), Real (2013) and Incarnate (2016), although the work that almost certainly influenced Kim Joon-sung was Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010).
The film is very dependent on Inception but Kim Joon-sung’s clever spin is to weld this to a strong mystery puzzle – it is the story of a man searching through his own memories (and later those of others) in search of clues he may have overlooked as to the abductor of his son. The story is strong enough to give Lucid Dream an originality that carries it some way in. The eventual revelation of the identity of the abductor has a pull the carpet out from under you twist that one can say they never saw coming.
While most visions of the dreamscape in the other abovelisted has a surrealistic dream-like quality, Kim Joon-sung, like Christopher Nolan, depicts this in a way where dreams essentially operate on the rules of the real world. The complaint you would make of both films is that this makes them seem very mundane for works supposedly set in dream. This disappointment of Lucid Dream is that it eventually opts for becoming an action film with various chases and shootouts around the dream just like it were a real world action film. These are not so interesting and one feels is a letdown on the film’s premise and mystery – it is never a work that conceptually engages with its elements, just one that becomes a novel thriller based around a central McGuffin device.