The Sandglass is a story of two men whose friendship is put to the test through the 1970s and 1980s, one of Korea's politically tumultuous periods. Park Tae-soo, tough and loyal, grows up to become a gangster and Kang Woo-suk, smart with firm moral values, grows up to become a prosecutor. Yoon Hye-rin, a beautiful and spirited daughter of a very wealthy casino owner, is a classmate of Woo-suk in college. Hye-rin is introduced to Tae-soo via Woo-suk and they subsequently fall in love. (Source: Wikipedia)
Cast & Credits
This drama surprised me in so many ways. Despite its age, it's very watchable today. The acting was stellar all around. It felt quite natural and in a way, less staged and choreographed than many modern dramas. Seeing actors such as Choi Min Soo and Go Hyun Jung in their breakout roles would make the 24 hours of heartache worth it even if the drama was not quite as good. It is that good, though!
The music, while unconventional, fit the mood of the drama well. Thank goodness they chose atmosphere over trendy ballads because I'm sure I would not have appreciated that as much in 2018. It got a tiny bit repetitive, but it's a minor issue. I wonder if that was a criticism they got when the show aired as well? At some point pretty late in the drama, a "new" background music appeared to soundtrack all the action scenes. (I didn't like it. It was cheesy and didn't fit with the rest of the music :P)
There are only a few other things I can think of to criticize. The wardrobe seemed odd to me. The story runs from the early 70's to the late 80's. It was filmed in the mid 90's. Throughout the drama, the clothing was basically pure 90's to my eyes. So when the real life footage shows up, it's kind of jarring that those people are actually wearing clothes of their time but the drama characters are not. It's a bit jarring. And the other criticism is that the sound effects are very dated. Cartoonish "thwaps" and "pows" abound whenever a fist fight occurs. It's kind of endearing in a way, though. :)
I won't describe the story. Even if you aren't normally a fan of politics and gangsters, you might find you like them in this context. If I had known in more detail what I was getting into, I might not have been so eager to watch, so don't let genre deter you if gangsters aren't your thing either. I was won over by the pace of the story and the compelling characters. I was impressed by the lack of common tropes. If I had any preconceived notions of what a 90's kdrama was like, I think it must have been that I expected way more cliches and the same old tired tropes that we still have even now. They had to come from somewhere, right? Well, maybe, but they didn't come from this drama. No childhood chance meetings ending in eternal love. No clear-cut, neat revenge plots. What it does have: lots of gray characters, which are my favorite kind. A surprisingly strong and articulate female lead. No easy answers, no preachiness, but lots to think about.
The intertwined lives and fates of the three main characters is what drives the story. What holds it together and gives it staying power, even today, are the timeless themes of corruption, abuse of power, and the thirst for change for the better despite so much resistance and sheer inertia. (And bringing in real life issues and events that would still have been in the fairly recent past for the audience at the time lends it that much more weight.)
Lastly, THE ENDING. I shall say no more in terms of story. But it hit me like a ton of bricks. Nicely done, show.
I cannot believe that no one has written a review for this drama! I'm not sure my review does it justice, but if you like a compelling drama and don't mind some dated effects and styles, then give it a shot.