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.
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.
Another good movie from the ever reliable Kim Jee-Won. The production design is great evoking the period and the acting is solid with such an accomplished cast. The story is interesting but Kim does not succeed in full to bring the narrative to life in a riveting way. It is a good movie, but it never soars.
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.
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