Set in the late 1920s, The Age of Shadows follows the cat-and-mouse game that unfolds between a group of resistance fighters led by Gong’s character, trying to bring in explosives from Shanghai to destroy key Japanese facilities in Seoul, and Japanese agents trying to stop them.
This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. See what’s now showing
With its evocative title and early World War II-era setting, I was expecting "Age of Shadows" to be an entirely cloak-and-dagger espionage affair; the surprise for me then is that director Kim Jee-woon opens the film with a rip-roaring action sequence and rarely takes his foot off the gas from there. The filmmaker cements his return to Korean cinema with this stylish, assured, and oh so satisfying thriller.
Never decaying in pace, the film provides us with thrilling Hitchcockian sequences on a train, suspenseful ambushes, treacherous inside men working in the shadow, and incredible shootouts at the sound of Louis Armstrong.
Sumptuous cinematography which giftwraps a fairly conventional thriller into a spectacle-laced bow. It shows that South Korean mainstream cinema can compete with Hollywood for pop culture approval, Clancy worthy intrigue and aesthetic artistry.
Spy story set during the Japanese occupation that finds a traitorous Korean policeman working with the occupied forces in rooting out a revolutionary movement only to find a bond with the rebel's second in command operative. The game of trust is explicit and violent here and the scripting may of needed to be a bit sharper to keep it rolling. Performances are good especially Song Kang-Ho and Gong Yoo. Worth a watch
Prestige Tarantino. South Korea's version of 'Inglorious Basterds' without the irony. Basically a "fuck you" to Japan, though hopefully a cathartic one. Every scene felt custom made to find future expression as screengrabs in a chapter of Bordwell & Thompson. At times felt like I was watching a Let's Play of the most expensive boardgame ever made but once I gave myself over to the ride I had fun for a swift 140 mins.
What is amazing about the chameleon Kim Jee-woon is that he often goes beyond the norms of Asian Pulp; He proved his mastery in Western (“The Good, the Bad and the Weird”) and horror (“A Tale of Two Sisters,” and the vicious “I Saw the Devil”) alongside his usual action flicks, but in "The Age of Shadows" he goes in depth - with some Carol Reed vibe - into resistance/occupation genre.