Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
SEARCH RESULTS FOR
'The Jungle Book' brings Disney's Silver Age to an end - listen in our lastest episode of 'Ink & Paint' 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

THE SPY GONE NORTH

★★★★

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: Gongjak
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. 
Pocahontas - 25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
TRENDINGPOCAHONTAS25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
Six Minutes to Midnight - An astonishing real-life tale
TRENDINGWIN SIX MINUTES TO MIDNIGHTAn astonishing real-life tale
The Violin Player - Sex and strings
TRENDINGTHE VIOLIN PLAYERSex and strings
Love and Monsters - A fun freakshow for the whole family
TRENDINGLOVE AND MONSTERSA fun freakshow for the whole family
Endings, Beginnings - Star-studded sex drama lacks substance
TRENDINGENDINGS, BEGINNINGSStar-studded sex drama lacks substance
Supernova - Colin Firth & Stanley Tucci's comforting yet confronting romance
TRENDINGSUPERNOVAColin Firth & Stanley Tucci's comforting yet confronting romance
Cosmic Sin - A film that delivers on the promise of its title
TRENDINGCOSMIC SINA film that delivers on the promise of its title
The Trouble with Being Born - Controversial, unsettling and intelligent science-fiction
TRENDINGTHE TROUBLE WITH BEING BORNControversial, unsettling and intelligent science-fiction
Hot Mess - Funny, filthy and heartfelt
TRENDINGHOT MESSFunny, filthy and heartfelt
Nymphomaniac - Lars, sex and cinema
TRENDINGNYMPHOMANIACLars, sex and cinema
The Emperor's New Groove - Getting in the Groove for the past 20 years
TRENDINGTHE EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVEGetting in the Groove for the past 20 years
Dark Place - An unsettling Indigenous horror anthology
TRENDINGDARK PLACEAn unsettling Indigenous horror anthology
The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale - An extremely silly zomedy
TRENDINGTHE ODD FAMILY: ZOMBIE ON SALEAn extremely silly zomedy
Palm Beach - Aussie dream cast, unwelcoming dinner party
TRENDINGPALM BEACHAussie dream cast, unwelcoming dinner party
Nomadland - The extraordinary Chloé Zhao delivers another American classic
TRENDINGNOMADLANDThe extraordinary Chloé Zhao delivers another American classic
Burning - One of the best films of the decade
TRENDINGBURNINGOne of the best films of the decade
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?
Ali's Wedding - A multicultural Aussie comedy
TRENDINGALI'S WEDDINGA multicultural Aussie comedy
Basic Instinct - 25 years of the erotic thriller
TRENDINGBASIC INSTINCT25 years of the erotic thriller
Another Round - What a beautiful, beautiful ride
TRENDINGANOTHER ROUNDWhat a beautiful, beautiful ride
© 2011 - 2021 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us!