Movie follows the activities of the Heroic Corps, an anti-Japanese independence organization that existed under the Japanese colonial period in South Korea. The group used violent means to achieve Korean independence.
Renowned South Korean director, Kim Jee-woon returns after a 3-year hiatus in the country's Best Foreign Film entry, "The Age of Shadows". Like Woon's other films, (I Saw the Devil, A Bittersweet Life), Shadows is an action-packed cat-and-mouse thriller extravagant.
Shadows has an amazing line up: Sang Kang-ho (Memories of Murder, Thirst), Gong Yoo (Train to Busan, A Man and a Woman) and cameo appearance from Lee Byung-hun (A Bittersweet Life, Inside read moreMen) whom Kim has worked previously and Um Tae-Goo (Coin Locker Girl, Veteran).
Pulled at the edge of your seat from start to finish, Kim doesn't disappoint tossing action sequences and twists that he carefully crafts and builds in suspense, only to laid them out with the greatest satisfaction, it leaves you hungry for more.
Just like "I Saw the Devil" and "A Bittersweet Life", Kim starts Shadows with little-to-nothing description of what's going out, only to follow it up with an action-filled chase scene, an amputated toe nail and blood splashed across the wall.
Shadows' 30 minutes train sequence is one of the best I've ever seen. This is the juice. It builds the plot as much as it shapes it and moves it, that includes the characters too. Accompanied by a more menacing version of Ravel's Bolero, the adrenaline just doesn't stop. I, for one, had to pause the film just so I could breathe. Kim brings us from compartment to compartment from character to character from discoveries to discoveries.
Cinematographer Kim Ji-Young does a fine job of transporting us to a 1920s setting of South Korea and Shanghai (the accuracy may be question but it looks beautiful nonetheless) with retro-like colors and saturated tones. Kim ravishes in extremism at times, with loud shoot outs, dialogues delivered in sinister whispers, loud slapping sounds, to torture scenes that likens to his other film, "I Saw the Devil".
Kim channels his narrative into powerful loyalty that seems like The Age of Shadows take a patriotic approach but ultimately, this thrill-filled film is entertaining as much as it is greatly crafted.
Have you ever watched Gaksital (Bridal Mask)?
Then you'll probably get a good idea about the time this movie is playing in. A Korean citizen (or Joseon person as it was called back then) who joined the Japanese forces and became a high-ranking police officer. And a group of Joseon citizen who secretly fight for their country's independence.
What I noticed about those kind of Korean movies is that they take their read moretime to tell their story. It is very slow paced as the first half of the film is being used to set every detail in its proper place and to build the overall construction. So, don't let yourself be fooled by this phony silence that only tries to hide the inevitable threats that lie in the shadows. They will explode once in a while and keep you excited.
Although I could sympathize with people who get bored because of its long and calm progress... If you allow yourself to dive into this foggy story you will be rewarded at the end. You won't see it coming until it's already happening. Then you just sit there, watch blankly and feel that undeniable pressure in your chest.
As the movie shines with many ~high-ranking actors, there's only one that truly outclasses everyone else here. And that's Song Kang Ho. I already watched some of his other movies but never was I captivated by him the way I was here, with this performance. I didn't notice it immediately. But suddenly one scene, one moment, one gesture. And he killed it. And me. He caught me off guard and brought me to tears.
Sadly, I can't say the same for Gong Yoo. He was good, no doubt. And he also had moments where his character shined but his overall personality stayed too shallow. Even Lee Byung Hun's short appearance had more impact on me.
If there's one other thing I would complain about, then it would be that I missed some more light on the actual situation of the Joseon people during that time.
Recommended for those who have patience and don't mind slowly enveloping stories. People, who are interested in this period of time. And for people who don't mind a little blood. There's no exaggerating amount of it but some scenes make me advise you to not eat while watching if you're sensible to those things.
Wow Gong Yoo is on a roll! Train to Busan was a record-shattering blockbuster and this movie is on it's way to become a record-shattering blockbuster. And his new drama looks extremely promising! The writer of Secret Garden and DOTS and a talented cast, so it'll definitely get good response.