A tense illegal arms deal in a Berlin hotel suddenly descends into mayhem after a “ghost” agent named Jong Sung appears on the scene. Secretly watching the deal go down is embattled South Korean intelligence chief Jin Soo, the North Koreans and the CIA, who are all left trying to decide whether the ghost is a double-agent or taking the fall for a more insidious plot. Myung Soo a young, notorious North Korean agent jumps into these treacherous waters to investigate loyalties of all involved and begins to implicate Jong Sung’s wife, Jung Hee, a translator at the North Korean embassy in the German capital. Caught between his love of country and his wife, Jong Sung must quickly prepare to make the ultimate sacrifice.
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Cast & Credits
ABOUT THE STORY:-
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.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION:-
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."
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 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.