Lee Jung Chool once had connections to the Korean independence movement, but he now works as a police officer for the Japanese occupation's forces. He receives an order to take down the leaders of the Heroic Corps, an anti-Japanese resistance organization. But while Lee wants to keep his favorable position with the Japanese, he begins to question himself while chasing Kim Jan Ok, a key resistance fighter who used to be his classmate.
Then Lee meets art dealer Kim Woo Jin, whom he suspects is the regional leader of the group, and whose antique shop is a front for a scheme to smuggle explosives from Shanghai into Seoul. Both men are well aware of each other's true identities and intentions, but get closer to each other seeking out more information. Jung Che San, the leader of the Heroic Corps, wants to turn Lee—all while Lee is being hounded and watched by the suspicious officer Hashimoto. Conflicted over duty and loyalty, Lee knows he could become a traitor or ally to either side.
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Cast & Credits
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 Men) 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.