Updated: Jul 20, 2019
You just got home from work after a long week. You are tired and just ready to sit down on the couch with a glass of wine and popcorn. You have one problem…NONE OF THE DRAMAS YOU ARE WATCHING RIGHT NOW ARE APPEALING TO YOU! Or maybe you can’t decide on the next drama to start. Or maybe you are curious about kdramas but don’t want to commit to a full 16-episode drama just yet.
WELL THIS IS THE PLACE FOR YOU!
Friday Night Movie Night.
We review a movie and tell you if it is or isn’t worth a watch. You can relax on the couch and enjoy good movies...or find a good movie to dip your feet into Korean entertainment.
FIRST UP FOR MOVIE NIGHT: AGE OF SHADOWS
This movie is a 2016 period spy thriller directed by Kim Ji Woon, who also directed the movie Illang: The Wolf Brigade, and written by Lee Ji Min and Park Jong Dae. It was picked to be South Korea’s submission to the 89th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film but ultimately was not chosen to be nominated. It is packed with big names in Korea such as Gong Yoo, Ha Ji Min and Lee Byung Hun. Age of Shadows takes place in 1920s Korea during Japanese occupation and is a cat and mouse game between the resistance and the Japanese government who occupy Korea at the time with the main story line being over this entire one event of smuggling in explosives from Europe and China via train. But this movie is really more than that simple plot line. Age of Shadows really explores one man’s view of loyalty and the journey on discovering how far he will go to be loyal or a traitor for either side of this conflict, which I found very interesting because it gave this movie substance. It was a character driven – moral story wrapped up in a spy thriller.
Age of Shadows is befitting to its name though. Being a spy thriller, you never know who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. I guess that is the draw of spy movies in general. I have to say being a spy thriller, there are some slow parts in this movie because everything can’t be explosives and gun fights. There has to be planning and stealth and secrets as well. I think the slow scenes make the action, suspense and big reveals that much more intense and have more impact to the audience. FAIR WARNING, this movie has some graphic scenes due to torture and violence so if you are not okay with that, this is not the movie for you.
There are 5 things in this film that really stood out for me. Music. Cinematography. Costume. Set design. The Morality of the Plot.
The music helped tell the story. It flowed with the plot line, rising to a crescendo at high intensity moments but it was the low parts that were more noticeable for me. It created tension throughout the entire movie and gave strength to the high intensity parts by having low volume music being played during the lulls in plot line because there was always a sense of foreboding with low volume percussion music and sounds playing.
I can’t talk about this movie without mentioning the costume and set design either. Both were beautiful and expertly done. The movie paid very close attention to detail, every detail. This benefited the movie because it draws the audience in, bringing them into the time period of the movie. It helps make the story and the movie believable.
I could talk about the cinematography of this movie all day long! This movie has AMAZING cinematography and was very beautiful. Some of the most memorable scenes for me was because the incredible cinematography . Two scenes come to mind when
talking about this. First is the opening scene. It is a chase scene through the streets of Seoul which include running across rooftops. Just the angles that the camera uses for this chase scene were just so unique whether it is down a city street or from above.
The most memorable scene is the train sequence though. It is a set of gorgeously choreographed and shot scenes. I think the entire sequence is anywhere between 30 and 45 mins of the movie and it is superbly done. Not only is the cinematography brilliant but the use of cinematography was very smart. The production and director used different train cars and angles to create tension and showcase the different sides of the conflict. This created pressure throughout the entire thing. The use of space, how it was shot and framed also created this feeling. You really got the sense of being enclosed in a train car during a high stakes mission and how desperate these characters were, by just the use of space or choreography in this train sequence. The director and production team choreographed the scene so different sides had different compartments and cars, all while trying to secretly move about the train, trying not to get caught and trying to communicate with each other. All of this secret movements and discussions lead up to a final showdown after the 30 to 45 min sequence which didn’t disappoint. I would watch this movie just for this sequence because it was THAT good. One thing that makes me want to watch the movie again is something I noticed after the train sequence. You still felt like you were trapped on a train because the movie made a conscious decision to frame scenes after the train scene to make it look like it was narrow such as a path in the trees or through a gate. I only noticed this after so I would like to see the movie again, to see if it comes up before. Maybe that was a conscious decision given the plot or maybe not.
As I said earlier, this movie was more than just a spy thriller yes - it is about this group of resistance fighters trying to succeed in a mission - but it is really about one man and if you can really pick one side. Are you willing to live or can you live with the side you chose? Does that loyalty have limits or not? This is what Age of Shadows is really about. Can a man live with the side he has chosen and to what extent will he live with his decisions to survive? This movie is about the inner struggle of a man and him wrestling with the thought of country or duty. This is what I loved about the story because it gave depth to the movie and also kept you guessing until the very end because you didn’t know who to trust or what people would ultimately choose in the end.
Lovers of period pieces and spy thrillers, you can't miss this movie. Age of Shadows will entertain you with its tension filled plot line and leave you awestruck with its beautiful cinematography and set design. As I warned earlier, this movie does have some graphic scenes due to torture but if you can get past that, this movie is a MUST see.
If you can’t wait for the next FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE NIGHT POST, check out these KThree Videos/Podcasts to check out some movie reviews that they have mentioned.