Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
In our new episode of 'Sleeping Beauty' for Ink & Paint, Daniel looks at its lasting legacy on animation, cinema and art - click to listen now!x
review, The Spy Gone North, The, Spy, Gone, North, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Hwang Jung-Min, Lee Sung-Min, Cho Jin-Woong, Ju Ji-Hoon, Kim Hong-Pa, Ki Joo-Bong, Kim Eung-Soo, Nam Moon-Chul, Choi Byung-Mo, Kim In-Woo, Yoon Jong-Bin, Drama

GONGJAK

★★★★

ENGROSSING ESPIONAGE ESCAPADES

KOREAN FILM FESTIVAL IN AUSTRALIA REVIEW
LATEST REVIEWS
By Jake Watt
9th September 2019

Spies and secret agents became staples of the movies right from the start - particularly in the films of German genre-master Fritz Lang - and sparked something of a phenomenon in the early 60s, when the Ian Fleming pulp hero James Bond hit the big screen.

In the real world, few spies have ever gotten within spitting distance to the leader of an enemy state - let alone one as dangerous as North Korea - like Black Venus, a.k.a. Park Chae-seo.

‘The Spy Gone North’, the latest film from director and co-writer Yoon Jong-bin (‘Kundo: Age Of The Rampant’), is loosely based on the true story of Park, a former South Korean agent who infiltrated North Korea's nuclear facilities. Set across a few years of the 1990s, it follows a loyal South Korean secret agent named Park Suk-young (Hwang Jung-min, ‘The Battleship Island’, ‘The Wailing’), who is assigned to infiltrate North Korea by his handler, the politically adroit Choi Hak-sung (Cho Jin-woong, ‘The Handmaiden’). After befriending a Chinese nuclear physicist of Korean ancestry who reveals that the North had made two low-level nuclear warheads, Park attempts to gain even more information on the DPRK’s weapons program.

'THE SPY GONE NORTH' TRAILER

Black Venus operates mostly out of Beijing, where the two countries send their top officials to feel each other out. We watch as he carefully establishes his cover as an amoral, greedy South Korean businessman and establishes friendships with stoney-faced North Korean officials, bribing his way up the ladder with top-quality counterfeit Rolex watches. Black Venus eventually pitches a lucrative deal in which South Korean companies pay to shoot commercials within North Korea, giving him an excuse to “scout” for locations in the country.

‘The Spy Gone North’ isn’t a neck-breaking, gadget-laden spy action film of the ‘Jason Bourne’ or ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ variety. Even Tomas Alfredson’s ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ is more action-packed. It’s more of a political thriller (in the same vein as Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s ‘The Realm’) about the murky connections - some financial, some political - that run across the Demilitarised Zone dividing the peninsula. For most of the film, we watch Park meeting various characters and managing his delicate relationships with the dangerous men he’s embedded himself with. Particularly intimidating are security official Jung (Ju Ji-hoon, ‘Asura: The City of Madness’) and, accompanied by a fluffy little white dog, Kim Jong Il (Gi Ju-bong, ‘Grass’).

Along with impressively slick cinematography via Choi Chan-min and some convincing production design, the film provides some fascinating insights into Korean history following the Cold War.

Much of the movie takes place around 1997, when liberal candidate Kim Dae-Jung won South Korea’s presidency against fierce opposition from conservatives. The film depicts how Black Venus’ boss and other conservative officials colluded with North Korea to thwart Kim’s chances. Meanwhile, the spy begins to question the men he serves even as they begin to view him as a liability...

Initially, it seems like the minimal personal backstory that we’re given for Park is a detriment to the film. How are we supposed to become attached to a character we know next to nothing about? But this allows Hwang to focus on the chameleonic qualities of Black Venus without distracting the audience from the swiftly moving machinations of the plot.

The final act of the film deepens Park’s relationship with the official who directs North Korea’s foreign exchange operations, Ri Myung Woon (an excellent Lee Sung-min, ‘The Witness’). A surprisingly stirring tale of sympathetic goals, duelling ideologies and unlikely friendships emerges, as well as a poignant argument in favour of better relations between North and South Korea.

Along with impressively slick cinematography via Choi Chan-min and some convincing production design (Taipei standing in for Beijing and North Korea), the film provides some fascinating insights into Korean history following the Cold War and the transition from a tightly-controlled to a more democratic South Korea. You don’t need to know much about Korean politics to enjoy ‘The Spy Gone North’; you only need an appreciation for political intrigue and tension-inducing filmmaking in general.

FAST FACTS
AKA: The Spy Gone North
RELEASE DATE: TBA
RUN TIME: 2h 17m
CAST: Hwang Jung-Min
Lee Sung-Min
Cho Jin-Woong
Ju Ji-Hoon
Kim Hong-Pa
Ki Joo-Bong
Kim Eung-Soo
Nam Moon-Chul
Choi Byung-Mo
Kim In-Woo
DIRECTOR: Yoon Jong-Bin
WRITERS: Kwon Sung-Hwi
Yoon Jong-Bin
PRODUCER: Kook Soo-Ran
SCORE: Cho Young-Wuk
TOP-RATED REVIEWS
Looking for more Korean Film Festival in Australia reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
The Food Club - A taste of the spice of life
TRENDINGWIN THE FOOD CLUBA taste of the spice of life
High Ground - Australia's cycle of violence
TRENDINGHIGH GROUNDAustralia's cycle of violence
Dark Whispers Vol. 1 - A spooky anthology from Australia's female horror directors
TRENDINGDARK WHISPERS VOL. 1A spooky anthology from Australia's female horror directors
Pocahontas - 25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
TRENDINGPOCAHONTAS25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
Underwater love - Seven films to watch before 'The Shape of Water'
TRENDINGUNDERWATER LOVESeven films to watch before 'The Shape of Water'
xXx: Return Of Xander Cage - The good, the bad and the ugly
TRENDINGxXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGEThe good, the bad and the ugly
Jungle - A true story told poorly
TRENDINGJUNGLEA true story told poorly
The Secrets We Keep - They kept a big secret... this movie is mediocre
TRENDINGTHE SECRETS WE KEEPThey kept a big secret... this movie is mediocre
Summerland - Sweet and sentimental
TRENDINGSUMMERLANDSweet and sentimental
Revisiting 'Dark City' 20 years later - The most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
TRENDINGREVISITING 'DARK CITY' 20 YEARS LATERThe most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
Music - Sia's feature debut falls flat
TRENDINGMUSICSia's feature debut falls flat
The World at War - The landmark documentary series restored in high definition
TRENDINGTHE WORLD AT WARThe landmark documentary series restored in high definition
Malila: The Farewell Flower - Contemplating love and loss
TRENDINGMALILA: THE FAREWELL FLOWERContemplating love and loss
River's Edge - The kids aren't alright
TRENDINGRIVER'S EDGEThe kids aren't alright
The Violin Player - Sex and strings
TRENDINGTHE VIOLIN PLAYERSex and strings
Wet Woman in the Wind - A sexy struggle for conquest
TRENDINGWET WOMAN IN THE WINDA sexy struggle for conquest
The Trouble with Being Born - Controversial, unsettling and intelligent science-fiction
TRENDINGTHE TROUBLE WITH BEING BORNControversial, unsettling and intelligent science-fiction
Sequin in a Blue Room - Dips toe into hook-up culture conversation but is afraid to dive in
TRENDINGSEQUIN IN A BLUE ROOMDips toe into hook-up culture conversation but is afraid to dive in
God of the Piano - A tale that tickles the ivories
TRENDINGGOD OF THE PIANOA tale that tickles the ivories
Cerulean Blue - Promising debut for a new voice in Australian cinema
TRENDINGCERULEAN BLUEPromising debut for a new voice in Australian cinema
© 2011 - 2021 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us!