The Age of Shadows. ★★★★
Review: The Age of Shadows is almost the perfect combination of a number of genres and sub-genres. A thriller, a spy movie, an action movie, and a drama based on basically real events that took place in early 1920s when Korea ways under Japan occupation. It's also a film about searching for an identity in the midst of a larger crisis.
The opening scenes introduce us to officer Lee Jung-Chool (Kang-ho Song) who is leading tens of policemen in pursuit of a member of a Korean liberation group. The camera uses the location very well. It hovers over the place with a knowing and sure eye. Captain Lee offers the guy (whom he recognized as a school mate) to surrender safely, but the revolutionary refuses and shoots himself. As Lee traces the members of the group, meeting and admiring its leader (Kong Yoo), he starts to develop feelings towards the rebellions' cause. What he knows about them he doesn't tell. That puts him at risk of being discovered as a traitor. His superior Higashi (Shingo Tsurumi) already has doubts about his loyalty. He appoints Japanese officer named Hashimoto (Tae-goo Eom) to keep an eye on him.
There is a 45 or so minutes sequence that takes place on a train heading back to Seoul. On it, Lee and Hashimoto, on- presumably- on one side, and, scattered in different wagons, the rebels. Lee wants the rebels safety. He hates Hashimoto though he pretends to co-operate. Hashimoto hates Lee and wants to capture the rebels or just kill them on the spot. He also hates Lee and wants to catch him in the act of providing assistance to the rebels.
What all of these feelings and events boil to is a wonderfully executed sequence of edgy thrilling scenes with a fine celebration of suspense. It's easily the main attraction of the film but things, wisely, refuse to calm down after that and Lee's search for his self identity and his quest to stay alive, lead him, and the film, to more tense situations though the ending is a bit of a lug.
• Script: Jee-woon Kim | Cinematography: Ji-Yong Kim | Editor: Yang Jin-mo | Music: Mowg.
• Cast: Kang-ho Song, Byun-hun Lee, Yoo Gong, Tae-goo Eom, Ji-min Han.
• Producer: Choi Jeong-hwa | Prod. Company: Grimm Productions// Harbin/ WB | Distributor: Warner Bros [Korea, 2016]. Premier: Toronto Film Festival.