The Berlin File

The Berlin File (2013)

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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 721 users
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Set within the backdrop of Berlin, Germany, the movie follows a North Korean secret agent who infiltrates a South Korean organization, but is then abandoned by his country. A killer arrives to take out the abandoned North Korean agent, while the North Korean agent attempts to flee with his wife.

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  • Also Known as:

    Bereurlin; In Berlin

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8 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
Jul 9, 2013
  • Overall 10
  • Story 10
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 9.0
  • Rewatch Value 10
The Berlin File is a 2013 South Korean spy thriller written and directed by Ryu Seung-wan.Ha Jung-woo stars as a North Korean agent in Berlin who is betrayed and cut loose when a weapons deal is exposed. Together with his wife, a translator at the North Korean embassy in Berlin played by Jeon Ji-hyun, they try to escape being purged, with Ryu Seung-beom and Han Suk-kyu playing North and South Korean operatives read more on their trail.The film was released in South Korea on January 31, 2013. It also had a limited theatrical run in 21 North American cities on February 15, 2013, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, New Orleans, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.


After a tense illegal arms deal in a Berlin hotel involving North Korean spy Pyo Jong-seong (Ha Jung-woo), a Russian broker, and a Middle Eastern terrorist goes wrong when disrupted by unknown assailants, Pyo narrowly escapes but encounters morass of conflicting evidence that may reveal why he was set up.Also investigating the failed weapons sale, embattled South Korean intelligence agent Jung Jin-soo (Han Suk-kyu) goes after Pyo to uncover his identity, but is left trying to decode whether the North Korean "ghost" agent (whose information cannot be found on any intelligence database) is a double agent or taking the fall for a more insidious plot. Finding himself embroiled in a vast international conspiracy, Jung must determine the North's role in the deal, as well as the potential involvement of the CIA, Israel's Mossad, international terrorist organizations, and any other covert operatives lurking in Berlin's polyglot underworld. Confronting the possibility of a double agent within Berlin's North Korean embassy where his wife Ryeon Jung-hee (Jeon Ji-hyun) is a translator, Pyo discovers that Pyongyang security authorities have dispatched ruthless fixer Dong Myung-soo (Ryu Seung-beom) to sort out potentially conflicting loyalties at the consulate. Dong's investigation quickly implicates Ryeon and he gives Pyo just 48 hours to incriminate his wife, who is suspected of leaking information on the arms deal to South Korean agents trying to gain access to a secret multi-billion dollar bank account controlled by Pyongyang authorities.Despite an apparently loveless marriage, Pyo is reluctant to betray Ryeon, particularly after she discloses she's pregnant. He senses that she was set up by Dong and his father to gain favor with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. But when the North Korean ambassador makes an attempt to defect to the West, Pyo becomes incriminated as well. Narrowly escaping an assassination squad dispatched by Dong, Ryeon and Pyo go on the run, with the rival Korean intelligence agencies closing in fast.


While preparing for the film, director Ryu Seung-wan met with several North Korean defectors and shot the documentary Spies for Korean broadcaster MBC as part of a special series that aired in 2011, intending "to make a realistic, fast-paced, Korean-style espionage action film about South Korean agents discovering North Korea's secret accounts and how political dynamics between the two Koreas get involved." Ryu said he wanted the film to be reminiscent of The Bourne Identity, and on an emotional level, to focus on the solitude and sorrow of those who live as secret agents.Budgeted at US$9 million, the film was produced by Ryu's own production shingle Filmmaker R&K, and financed by CJ Entertainment. Seasonal aspects play an important part in the film; Ryu shot the film almost 100% on location in Europe, hoping to capture its eerie chill. Filming began on April 16, 2012 on a film set in Namyang, south of Seoul, in Gyeonggi Province. After wrapping there, cast and crew relocated to Berlin, Germany and Riga, Latvia in early May 2012, and among the locations were the roof of Berlin's Westin Grand Hotel, in Schöneberg, at the Hackescher Markt, and on Pariser Platz in front of the iconic Brandenburg Gate in full view of the American and French Embassies. The shoot involved a 15-person German crew from Film Base Berlin, but the majority of production elements and talent were Korean, including around 80 crew members who brought their entire equipment. Observing that Ryu did the recces of the locations with the actors so that they could get used to the settings, Film Base boss Mathias Schwerbock described the director as "very thorough and precise in his preparations. They are fast at shooting and very efficient." Stunt coordinator Jung Doo-hong choreographed the film's action sequences. With over 40% of the film in English, American screenwriter Ted Geoghegan was hired to construct and polish the film's English dialogue, based on writer/director Ryu's translated Korean text.


The action blockbuster had a strong opening, drawing more than 2.8 million admissions (US$19 million) in just over a week after its release, with 1.53 million tickets sold during its first weekend alone. A scene in which Ha Jung-woo's character gobbles a baguette was not included in the final edit, and director Ryu Seung-wan promised fans to make the footage public when the film exceeded 3 million admissions. The clip was released on February 7. The film reached 5 million admissions after 14 days of release, and 7 million by March 5, 2013. It took in US$48,146,202 at the Korean box office.


Local critics gave unequivocal praise for the action set-pieces and acting performances, with the caveat that the film's overall quality was hindered by the overly convoluted plot. According to Yonhap and Screen Daily, the film's highlights were "its spectacular and breathtaking fight and action scenes" and "secretive and gloomy atmosphere." Film Business Asia stated that the film is "flawed by a finale that doesn't top the previous set pieces but otherwise contains enough superbly staged action and rich performances to keep any audience hooked for two hours."

The Korea Times called the actors "superb," with special mention to how Ha Jung-woo "breathe(s) a layer of complexity into the shortest of lines," the "brilliant" Ryu Seung-beom, and that Jeon Ji-hyun "deftly handles" her role. But though it opined that Ryu "has never produced a more polished action movie" with its "tightly-packed and smartly-placed action scenes," it panned the script for being "preposterous and un-ambitious at the same time."

The Berlin File received mostly positive reviews from major US media outlets during its North American theatrical release. The New York Times hailed its "exhilarating action set pieces," adding that Ryu "brings his brand of muscular action and quicksilver agility to the shifting battleground of international espionage." The Hollywood Reporter praised the careful balancing of narrative tension, writing that "the film crackles with tense character conflict."

Bloomberg gave it four stars out of five, saying, "the film offers just about all you could ask of a genre flick; poisoning, defections, a secret North Korean bank account, gloriously choreographed fights that go insanely over the top, febrile tension and doomy romance."The Village Voice said, "the enjoyable analog antics end with one character boarding the train bound for Vladivostok, but judging from the evidence, it's Hollywood where we can expect to see Ryu Seung-wan appear before long."
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10 people found this review helpful
Other reviews by this user
Aug 4, 2013
  • Overall 9.0
  • Story 9.0
  • Acting/Cast 10
  • Music 8.0
  • Rewatch Value 4.0
Wow just wow...I just saw this film and felt compelled to write a review.

The other review on here already gives you a detailed synopsis of the story etc. so I will not tread over old ground. In a nutshell its a Korean espionage thriller with plenty of action and drama.

The action scenes are some of the best I have seen & I have seen a lot of action films. The read more acting by the lead guy is understated and very real. Admittedly some of the non-Korean "actors" are not so proficient but I will glance over it on this occasion.

The whole film is shot & edited very well, the pacing of the story is excellent. I watched the whole film with baited breath. A real roller-coaster of a ride which will give you adrenalin highs and leave you emotionally drained by the end.

It reminded me a lot of The Bourne Identity and if you liked that I am certain you will like this too.

My re-watch score is low only because I tend not to re-watch films/dramas as a rule.
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both are about being betrayed, surviving that betrayal and making the betrayer pay.
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Comments (11)

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    sanasoufi Jan 14, 2017

    What did I just watch? So confusing and awful! THE worst Korean movie I've ever seen. 0/10.

  • Reply
    sugaryday Nov 13, 2016

    surprisingly i enjoyed this!

  • Reply
    Syranus Apr 17, 2016 - edited

    I wasn't really captivated by the story but I like the action scenes. 6.5/10.
    And the foreign actors were awkward. :-)

  • Reply
    Anthony Dec 17, 2015 - edited

    Bad ending Ugh!

  • Reply
    andyinspirit Aug 13, 2015 - edited

    Movie is bad. Acting sucks. Story is too complicated but not that bad. Too much names, too much nationalities. 2 hours of nothing. . .wasted. . .
    Ryu Seung Beom and Jeon Ji Hyeon are the only ones with good acting skills.
    The one and only thing that I like is korean fighting.

    • Reply
      giulio Feb 25, 2016

      actig sucks?? you dont know what are u talking

  • Reply
    andyinspirit Aug 13, 2015

    Someone said that this movie is better than The Suspect.
    ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!?! First one hour is so fucking boring . I'm stuck here now. . I don't know should i keep watching it or should i just drop

  • Reply
    Ace Jun 4, 2015 - edited

    Wow, just wow. Great cast, loved the action scenes and it had me engrossed all the way. Seriously loved the mix of cultures and languages, I can watch this a few times.

  • Reply
    Wantedx9 Mar 8, 2015

    Damn this movie was complicated as hell

  • Reply
    Cheer Feb 6, 2014

    Such a great movie! A South Korean Action/Thriller about a North Korean secret spy is something I would enjoy and I did.
    Let's not forget the amazing set of actors, Ha Jeong Woo and Han Seok Kyu were awesome in this alongside Jun Ji Hyun and Ryoo Seung Bum. Korean movies' actors never fail to deliver great performances.

  • Reply
    Reavel Oct 4, 2013

    Ryoo brothers working together again. Yey!

  • Reply
    educto1 Sep 29, 2013

    Part 2 please.

  • Reply
    raiona Apr 25, 2013

    What a movie! But half of its fun is still stuck in my throat 'cause I'm in need of a proper English Subtitle to get the total gist of it! So, HWAITING!! ^~^* v~

    • Reply
      _Rosie Aug 4, 2013

      I know what you mean when I first downloaded this film the available subs were awful. Particularly as there is quite a bit of English and that was translated so badly I feared for the Korean/German translations lol. I bided my time and only watched it now when better subs were available.

  • Reply
    fwaaaah Feb 4, 2013

    This will be a must watch, since it's from Berlin, and I've been to Berlin several times.


  • Country:

    South Korea
  • Type:

  • Release Date:

    Jan 31, 2013
  • Duration:

    2 hr. 0 min.


  • Score:

    7.7 (scored by 721 users)
  • Ranked:

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