Experience the horror of losing your phone to a criminal in 'Unlocked'

Actor Yim Si-wan as Jun-yeong in ″Unlocked″ [NETFLIX]

What happens if you lose your smartphone and a psychopath picks it up and starts using your own personal information against you?

That is the premise of the new Netflix film “Unlocked,” starring Yim Si-wan, Chun Woo-hee and Kim Hee-won. Im plays the psychopath criminal Jun-yeong in another surprise turnaround performance from his usual roles of do-gooders and the underdog. Chun plays Nami, the young woman whose personal and financial information gets hijacked by Jun-yeong.

“I don't think it's very healthy, how we all upload our personal thoughts, whereabouts and information online on social media these days,” said Yim, sitting down for a roundtable interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily on Feb. 14.

Actor Yim Si-wan [NETFLIX]

“I also use social media for professional use, to communicate with my fans and such — but the trend nowadays to share everything about ourselves and having no privacy seems dangerous to me. People like my character Jun-yeong, who is a psychopath and a sociopath, could easily target normal people, and a story like the one we depict in ‘Unlocked’ could actually happen in real life.”

“Unlocked” follows Chun’s Nami as she accidentally drops her smartphone on a bus, which is picked up by Yim’s Jun-yeong. Jun-yeong then starts hacking everything on the phone before proceeding to use the information stored on the device to target Nami for a horrific crime.

“The script of ‘Unlocked’ was very well organized,” said Chun during a press screening for the film at the Lotte Cinema Konkuk University branch in Gwangjin District, eastern Seoul, on Feb. 15. “I read the entire script in one sitting. I play the person who becomes the target, but I thought that this kind of story has a real ground in our actual lives, so I thought it would be a good experience for me to play the part of Nami.”

Actor Chun Woo-hee as Nami in ″Unlocked″ [NETFLIX]

Nami is a character who, like most young people in this digital age, enjoys uploading her everyday life on social media to share her thoughts with her friends. She, of course, never expects that this innocent habit could lead to her being the suspect of a crime.

“Watching Nami becoming the target and victim of Jun-yeong will feel to audiences like watching a herbivore in a nature documentary become defenseless in front of a beast,” said Chun.

A scene from ″Unlocked″ [NETFLIX]

Jun-yeong is the kind of person who is so twisted and sick that he has a sort of “artistic” characteristic, Yim said during the roundtable interview.

“My character is a very complex antagonist,” said Yim. “He ponders the ways in which he can most creatively destroy a person. That is the extent of his evil. Of course, I do not in any way empathize or identify with such a character, but it was a new experience for me to play this type of antagonist.”

The character of Jun-yeong contrasts with the image of Yim so much that his co-stars found it hard to match the fictional person with the actor, said Kim Hee-won, who plays a supporting role in “Unlocked.”

“When I think of Yim, he has a very clean and upright sort of image as a person,” said Kim. “So the contrast between Jun-yeong and Im itself could be a point of surprise for audiences. I think people will be very shocked by his performance in our film.”

Kim plays the role of Ji-man, the detective that investigates Jun-yeong’s crimes targeting Nami.

“Unlocked” is based on the Japanese novel, “I Just Dropped My Smartphone” (translated) which was adapted for the silver screen in Japan back in 2019. The timely message of the original compelled director Kim Tae-joon to make a film about the importance of privacy and the dangers of sharing our every thought online and through digital devices, Kim explained during the press conference.

“'Unlocked’ is a thriller that allows the audience to indirectly experience the worst that can happen when we rely so much on our phones and expose ourselves,” said Kim. “I thought of the phone itself as the main villain responsible for the suspense of the film, and I planned the structure of the story with the hope that this aspect would appear in each scene.”

Concerned about the effect that his moving to the dark side by playing a twisted antagonist could have on the audience, Yim chose to play it for the good in the real world instead.

Actor Yim Si-wan poses with a smartphone for a roundtable interview on ″Unlocked″ [NETFLIX]

“I know that I have received the nickname ‘crazy person with bright eyes’ from viewers and fans through my previous roles such as in ‘Emergency Declaration,’” said Yim. “I feel that my image as an actor is mostly positive because I played a lot of do-good or underdog roles in the early stages of my career. And I always think about the social impact that the roles I take on would have, so I did hesitate in playing a psychopath criminal in ‘Unlocked.’ But I thought there was a need to shed light on the dark by playing roles such as Jun-yeong.

“I personally always think about things like ‘Would this role have a positive effect on viewers and society?’ and ‘Would this character have the potential to be exploited and copied to lead to actual crime?’ So when I decided to take on the role of Jun-yeong and started filming, I made donations to charities to take the burden and guilt off my chest,” said Yim. The donations came in part from the guarantees paid to Yim for the film.

Main poster for ″Unlocked″ [NETFLIX]

The way forward for young Korean actors nowadays is to also think about the international impact and perspectives, moving on from only thinking about Korean points of view and Korean-ness in cinema, according to Yim.

“I was at Cannes last year and met a lot of overseas viewers,” said Yim. “I think now more than ever we need to think about the fact that more foreigners will be watching our films and content. With the pandemic, the tides have changed. Young Korean actors like myself need to think deeply about what necessary attitudes and qualities are expected in artists in this age.”

“Unlocked” was released on Netflix for streaming worldwide on Friday.