Master of South Korean cinema Kim Jee-woon returns to the screen with a political thriller set in 1920’s Japanese occupied Korea that possesses all of Jee-woon’s signature cinematic traits. Multi-talented actor and all-time favourite of mine, Song Kang-ho, plays a Korean police captain tasked with weeding out the leaders of his country’s resistance movement. In doing so, he is inevitably forced to face the duality of securing a safe position with the Japanese government and betraying his own country.
Famous for the morbidly beautiful A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), the gruesomely pulse-pounding I Saw the Devil (2010), and the futuristically thought provoking Heaven’s Creation (2012), Jee-woon’s attempt at creating a suspenseful cloak and dagger tale of espionage succeeds on all levels with special regards to cinematography, editing, and music. Jee-woon’s careful attention to color and framing immerse the viewer in shining shades of gold, black, and red that not only accentuates the war time production design, but paints the fast-paced and clear to the eye action choreography with splendid visuals.
Meanwhile the convoluted cat and mouse storyline is complimented by a repetitive guitar string note, the dramatic revelations reach great heights with operatic orchestra, and the end credits finish off with an electronic beat that sounds cool just for the hell of it. Although its story of political and military subterfuge may tie itself in an inevitable knot with the amount of characters, motivations, and details, The Age of Shadows is a satisfyingly tense thriller that not only comments on honor and loyalty, but gives American action movies a run for their money.