Monday, 31 October 2016

Film Review: "The Age of Shadows" ("밀정") (2016).




"Infiltrate and deceive"
and "Suspect and disrupt" are key to The Age of Shadows (밀정) (2016). This South Korean action thriller film directed by Kim Jee-woon and written by Lee Ji-min and Park Jong-dae. Set in the late 1920s, the film follows the cat-and-mouse game that unfolds between a group of resistance fighters trying to bring in explosives from Shanghai to destroy key Japanese facilities in Seoul, and Japanese agents trying to stop them. A talented Korean-born Japanese police officer, who was previously in the independence movement himself, is thrown into a dilemma between the demands of his reality and the instinct to support a greater cause.

In August 2015, Warner Bros. announced that it would finance and distribute its first ever Korean-language film. With a budget of US$8.62 million would be co-produced by Grimm Pictures, Warner Bros. Korea and Harbin Films. The project was developed under the three companies; the script was developed by Lee Ji-min and Park Jong-dae; Kim Jee-woon (A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), A Bittersweet Life (2005) and I Saw the Devil (2010)), was attached to direct and the cast would consist of Song Kang-ho, Gong Yoo, Han Ji-min, Shingo Tsurumi and Lee Byung-hun. The film was selected as the South Korean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the 89th Academy Awards.

The film stars Song Kang-ho, Gong Yoo, Han Ji-min, Shingo Tsurumi and Lee Byung-hun. The cast gave terrific performances, though one can not help but notice the poor, thin and "hollywoodized" characterisations that are often associated with big budget historical productions involving a group of resistance fighters fighting against the tyrannical empire.

With The Age of Shadows, audiences will be delighted to find the kind of overstuffed historical mega-production that Hollywood doesn't make anymore. Here Hollywood meets Korean cinema with palate-tingling results. It is a fusion that draws shamelessly on its historical epic forebears but remains utterly, bracingly Korean. Here director Kim Jee-woon shows his exceptional direction once again and confidently handles the film's action sequences. The action sequences are a tour de force of action style and Korean ultra-violence that will have genre fans nailed to their seats. It's hard not to admire the film's entertainment and high production value. Guns, explosions and quirky humor have been added to the mix. As vigorously staged as it all is - sometimes confusingly, occasionally with camera-torqueing flair and impressive stuntwork - the urge to thrill grows wearisome at times. Were audience members to be included as a co-conspiritor as well, they'd be in the age of boredom. The story’s many advances and reversals, with the additions of too many characters and the film's tedious running time, can be hard to follow at times. But this isn’t really a movie where plot is paramount. Everything boils down to the action, and what that action means. A confusing and complicated narrative and lacklustre ending detract from an otherwise joyous Eastern historical action flick. In the end, it may not be exactly the rediscovery of form or revelation that Korean cinema has been waiting for or deserves, but it comes close enough.

Simon says The Age of Shadows (밀정) (2016) receives:


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