I’m certainly a fan of Korean cinema. Over the years I’ve discovered some real gems and found myself liking certain directors and actors the more I see their movies. This critically acclaimed thriller follows Police captain Lee Jung‑Chool (Kang Ho-song) who infiltrates a group of resistance fighters who are reportedly planning a series of bombings on Japanese establishments during the Japanese occupation of Korea in the 1920s. As a Korean born man, Lee Jung finds himself questioning his allegiance when a charismatic resistance fighter befriends him and lets him in on their plans.
This tale of loyalty, double crosses and war time espionage is shot with no end of style and class. The set design and photography here is simply breath-taking and further cements director Kim Jee-woon (I Saw the Devil) as one of the best the country has to offer. Although at times overly-complicated, this was gripping stuff with some brilliantly executed set-pieces including a tense sequence aboard a train and an exhilarating finally set to the music of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. Add to this two strong turns from Kang-Ho Song (Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, The Host) and Gong Yoo (Train to Busan) and even though occasional shoot-outs got a tad repetitive … it was the battle of wits at the centre of the story that came across the strongest.
Not one of those Korean movies I’d leap to recommend over so many others, but if you’re a fan of well-made world cinema, this is definitely worth your time.
What is it about Vampires lately? They seem to be everywhere in the media, from countless movies, most notably the popular Twilight franchise, and on TV with the likes of The Vampire Diaries and True Blood. Yet these endeavours seem a little clichéd, lacking in imagination and a little ‘safe’. Something that can’t be said of Korean director Park Chan-wook’s latest entry. The (rightly) acclaimed director of OldBoy and Sympathy For Mr Vengeance dips his toe into the blood sucking genre and as expected, delivers something totally unique and fresh.
Kang-ho Song plays Priest Sang-hyeon who undergoes as experimental drugs testing scheme to find a cure for a disease slowly killing the patients of a hospital that he attends. Yet said test leads to him developing a thirst for blood, and he soon discovers he has been inadvertently turned into a vampire. Whilst believed to be a miracle survivor of the disease, and worshipped by the public, he bonds with the family of a cancer victim, and soon catches the eye of his strange and downtrodden young wife, Tae-Ju. It’s not long then that they begin an illicit affair, and his vampire secret is revealed to the young woman, beginning a bizarre love story.
Yet as this is Park Chan-wook, things develop much more intricate and complex than first expected, and although full of blood sucking, splashes of gore and some clever special effects, proves more of a meaningful drama than a horror. The camera work and cinematography are stunning, the set design and framing of every shot, a subtle work of art, and the haunting music increases the overall power of this slow burning but very effective movie. Kang-ho Song is brilliant as the conflicted priest, battling both his bloodthirsty urges and his faith, whilst Ok-bin Kim as the slightly deranged Tae-ju often steals the show, with a stunning and intense performance. I’ll admit that at times it’s a bit disgusting with some gross sound effects to accompany not only the blood sucking, but kissing and some awkward sex, and the movie is overly drawn out and too long. Yet this is still a quality example of the vampire myth, given a little more flair than we’ve seen recently, and once again marks the director as a master of his art.
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