The Age of Shadows (Miljeong) 2.0 stars

Age of Shadows (Miljeong) movie poster

Writer-director Kim Jee-woon brings John Le Carré-style espionage to the world of Korea's struggle for independence from Japan in the '30s. Meaning: the deepest convictions of the human heart are your only hope for surviving a world where deceit and betrayal are not only common but expected, but it's a slim hope at best, and the indulgence of emotion almost guarantees failure. While the plot involves smuggling Hungarian-made explosives from Shanghai to Seoul in order to attack the Japanese headquarters, the drama is internal: Korean cop Lee Jung-Chool (a fantastically world-weary Kang-ho Song) made his bones with the Japanese by ratting on his old friends in the resistance, but certain of his friends view him much the way Luke Skywalker viewed Darth Vader: "There is still good in you. I can feel it." It's all wonderfully stylish and handsome — the train sequence in particular may send some viewers into an aesthetic swoon — but it's also a bit stately, which isn't great for sustaining intrigue and/or tension. And too often, there's the feeling that something got lost in translation, that instead of being immersed in another world, we're stuck in the role of interested, well-meaning tourists. In Korean with English subtitles. (Nota bene: because the film is not rated, it's worth noting that the torture scenes do get rough.) 2016.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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