If Kim Jee-woon’s fantastically entertaining “The Good, theBad và the Weird” saw the talented Korean director playing with the milieu ofSergio Leone, his latest, the espionage thriller “The Age of Shadows,” could becategorized as a riff on the films of Carol Reed—there’s a lot of talk ofloyalty to country và double agents working both sides against the middle, & even comes with an extended sequence aboard a train filled with spies. At140 minutes, Kim sometimes loses the rhythm of his spy thriller, but he"s sucha confident filmmaker—and his leading man such a magnetic presence—that hequickly gets its back. “The Age of Shadows” may not be among its filmmaker’s best works (Iadore “Good,” “A Tale of Two Sisters,” and the vicious “I Saw the Devil”) butit’s not for lack of ambition or scope.

“The Age of Shadows” opens with a meeting between a fighterfor the Korean resistance against the Japanese occupation (the film takes placein 1920s Korea) và an antiques dealer. As the fighter is trying lớn sell an itemto raise funds for the resistance, it becomes clear something is wrong.Before you know it, dozens of police officers descend upon the place và a chaseensues that sets the stage for the two hours khổng lồ come, in that it’s a situationthat looks horribly out of balance—one man trying khổng lồ escape an army. That armyis led by Lee Jung-chool (the great tuy nhiên Kang-Ho), who seems to lớn be the only onetrying lớn take the target alive—again setting up his character as someone stuckbetween immovable forces. After the freedom fighter is injured so badly that heliterally twists his own toe off, he kills himself. This will be a film about men willing to die for that which they believe in, và how impossible that kind of commitment can be lớn stop.

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Much lượt thích “Good,” “The Age of Shadows” develops into athree-character piece. There’s Lee, the Korean captain working for the Japanesepolice, who becomes sympathetic khổng lồ the causes và the people behind theresistance he’s been assigned khổng lồ stopping; there’s Kim Woo-jin (Gong Yoo,recently seen in “Train lớn Busan”), the new leader of the resistance; & there’sthe Japanese agent Hashimoto (Um Tae-goo), who often looks like he’d be willingto kill an entire train of people just lớn stop one resistance fighter. The factthat Hashimoto and his vicious superior are sketched as near-sociopathic men,willing to vày whatever it takes lớn stop the insurgence, makes Lee’s interest inthe other side believable. It doesn’t hurt that the director gives Kim a minorlove story—he’s fallen hard for Yun Gye-Soon, the heroine of the resistance, played by HanJi-min—thereby humanizing him even further.

There is a lot ofdiscussion of informants và double agents in “The Age of Shadows,” khổng lồ thepoint that story often gets muddled and the actual stakes feellessened. Kim works primarily in action outbursts—a train centerpiece, thehighlight of the film, puts all the good guys & bad guys on board & thenslow-burns lớn its explosive climax. By defining Lee’s loyalties as seriouslyunclear at this point & then putting spies, police officers & a ton ofexplosives on a train khổng lồ Seoul, Kim’s film justifies the cost of admission injust the train sequence alone. It’s beautifully conceived, framed & executed.Outside of that, there are a few extended scenes, but calling this an actionfilm would be misleading.

While Kim’s filmmaking is typically engaging, it’s reallySong Kang-ho who carries the viewer’s interest. Gong Yoo may get the more traditional herorole, but it’s important to lớn the director that we see this story through the eyes ofthe man caught in the middle. The star of “Thirst” và “Snowpiercer” istypically fantastic, a man conflicted enough to lớn question the role he’ll play ina formative chapter of his country’s history. Everyone here is good, although Ido wish some of the supporting characters had been fleshed out a bit more. Weknow almost nothing about Yun Gye-Soon outside of the love-struckeyes given her by Kim Woo-jin and a visually striking sequence in the trainstation. When her torture becomes a key, disturbing sự kiện in the final act, itlacks resonance because of how little we know about her.

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Although perhaps that’s part of the point. None of thesepeople knew much about each other, or even themselves. “The Age of Shadows” isabout a man caught between country và duty; decency và obligation. It isabout people in a time in which black and white lost their meaning, và everythingblended to the gray of shadow.


Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Editor of xemdiemthi.edu.vn, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and đoạn clip games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist,The thành phố new york Times, và Rolling Stone,and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.