Netflix Film ‘Unlocked’ Themes, Explained: Kim Tae-Joon’s Korean Thriller Reflects The World We Live In

Today, technological advancements are so far-reaching that scientists can send men to the space with a press of a button on their laptops.  But for the simpler people, young men and women who work day jobs and take their weekends off to hang out with friends, mobile phones are a big part of their lives. Debutant director Kim Tae-joon takes this idea and portrays the darker aspect of this dependency. In his movie “Unlocked,” Tae-joon presents a scenario where a young woman is stalked by a sadistic psychopath after he gets his hands on her phone and accesses her private data. This 2023 psychological thriller has a lot to say about the world that we live in and takes a closer look at the behavior of people. “Unlocked” holds a mirror to the actions of people in their daily lives and leaves us questioning the things we barely spend a thought on. Here are the themes from everyday life that the movie holds a mirror to:


Spoilers Ahead

Phones Are A Part Of Us 

If humans could have an extra organ on their body, it’d probably be their mobile phones, given how deeply attached people have become to their devices these days. “Unlocked” shows how people have modified their patterns of walking or even traveling in the subway, with everyone looking down at their phones, neck bent, and thumb continuously scrolling the glass screens. Looking at the people in Kim Tae-joon’s world of phone addicts, they might even have a carrot dangling by a stick in front of them that they keep chasing—only the carrot is their phone, and they’re chasing the social media clout it brings. This unhealthy obsession with one’s phone goes beyond just a hobby, however, and people have made these snug little devices their entire lives’ diaries. People have stopped using every other instinct because phones have alarm clocks that awaken them in the morning, they prefer texting over talking to others, they go to sleep with their phones, and the first thing they look for upon waking up is this device of metal, plastic composites, and glass. This dependency on a device works as long as it’s functioning and hasn’t fallen into the wrong hands. We empty our hearts into these devices and hope that a pattern or a password will keep the gigabytes upon gigabytes of data that store every detail about our lives safe. However, unlike other people, phones don’t have a soul, and it’s very easy to extract even our most prized information from these devices, and all one would need is the pattern that opens the doors to the deepest secrets of our lives. 


Cyber Attacks Can Happen To Anyone

If Lee Na Mi’s incident tells us anything, it’s that nobody is safe from being the target of the creepy, prying eyes of a stranger. The perverse desire to leer at an unsuspecting woman going about her day and keeping track of everything she does is possible if someone can get their hands on the victim’s mobile phone. With just a few clicks of buttons, spyware can be installed in the victim’s phone, and their entire lives are laid out for the creep to manipulate. Na Mi falls prey to the sadistic psychopath Jun Young simply because she accidentally leaves her phone on a bus, and he quickly finds access to her entire life’s history after he tricks her into entering her password at a phone repair shop. Na Mi’s entire day-to-day life is spied upon, and all her likes, dislikes, and hobbies are learned about. A movie like this can leave anyone feeling anxious because of how eerie it feels to not even be aware that a pair of eyes are following you around. Na Mi never realizes it, but we, the audience, are severely creeped out to watch Jun Young enter her house while she’s at work and look through her stuff. It also shows how vulnerable it leaves people, and once the predator learns about the details of their victims’ lives, they can manipulate the prey any way they so choose. The climax reveals that Jun Young has killed seven people in the past, and Na Mi would’ve been his eighth victim had the detectives not intervened in time. “Unlocked” is the dose of reality that not all hackers need their victim’s money; some do this for the sadistic joy of destroying another person before killing them. 

Trust Your Loved Ones

A big reason why Na Mi is entrapped in the quagmire that ends with her father and her almost losing their lives is that she chooses to disregard her father’s advice. When her father asks her to stay away from the creep Jun Young because he caught him in a lie earlier and has been seeing him chatting up his daughter a lot lately, she dismisses him. Na Mi calls her father overly possessive, which is creepier than a stranger having a lot of things in common with her. She pushes her father away because he is concerned about her and unknowingly aids the psychopath whose traps she’s slowly getting entwined in. 


Na Mi’s best friend, Eun Ju, begs and pleads with her to trust her over some random guy who is excessively sugary and cheesy with her, while indirectly planting the seeds of doubt in Na Mi’s head against her best friend. Being a gullible girl, way too open to trusting strangers, the first instinct Na Mi has is to confront Eun Ju, demanding to know if she was the one who destroyed her life. Humiliated and disgusted, Eun Ju leaves with an ultimatum, telling Na Mi never to contact her again and leaving her wide open to Jun Young’s final blow. “Unlocked” is an important reminder that it’s wise to listen to the ones who actually care about your well-being more than an overly-friendly stranger.

The Failure Of Law

One of the loudest themes in “Unlocked” is the utter failure of the law and the upholders of the same in the movie. The psychopath moonlighting as Jun Young has killed seven people in the past and is on to his next victims, but the policemen are finally learning about the deaths this late. Had Ji Man not found the decomposing body of the woman towards the start, the detective angle would’ve never been a part of the film, for starters. Even when Ji-Man is convinced that his son is deep into something shady, he delays for a long time before deciding to head into his mobile repair shop, but even then, he pushes his partner away, saying he’ll catch his son. The fatherly instinct over duties keeps Ji Man from fulfilling his duties to the fullest, and Na Mi and her father would have died had it not been for his partner. Besides, why was Ji Man even allowed to handle the case knowing how his son might be involved in it, which compromises his ability to meet his duties?


Moreover, the cybercrime branch is laughably incompetent at its job. The officer asks Na Mi, whose entire life has been destroyed, to bring proof that she didn’t purposefully sabotage her career. Registering a complaint and finding proof to catch the perpetrator should be the job of the officers in the cybercrime branch, but they’re skeptical and reluctant to take on the task at hand. Had the cybercrime branch officers been a little more effective at their jobs or even decided to take a look at Na Mi’s phone, her life wouldn’t have been in such danger.

See more: ‘Unlocked’ Characters, Explained: Exploring The Several Shades Of Characters In Kim Tae-Joon’s Film

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Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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