“The Age of Shadows”



“The Age of Shadows” looks so freaking amazing that I really didn’t care about the messy, rambling plot: which is a good thing because it’s all over the place. This period action film is set partially in Korea (in the 1920s when the country was under Japanese occupation) and China. It’s an interesting point in history but the script is sorely lacking. Thankfully the gorgeous, polished visuals save the day (mostly).

Lee Jung-Chool (Kang-ho Song) is a Korean police captain in the Japanese police force. He’s assigned a secret mission to infiltrate the Korean resistance of independence fighters, led by Kim Woo-Jin (Yoo Gong). All of the actors deliver strong and steady performances, but both Song and Gong are absolutely commanding onscreen. There are some mild spy thriller elements, a bunch of double crossing, intel leaks, and the like, but the sheer beauty and choreography of the elegantly staged action pieces are where the film finds its strength.

Jee-woon Kim‘s direction is confidently graceful but he’s a little inconsistent in his pacing (Kim also penned the screenplay). There’s a bit too much plot involved (much of it tangled to the point of being borderline puzzling), but just when the film starts to lag, some inspired moment like the homage to “Goodfellas” scene that’s scored with the vintage Louis Armstrong tune “When You’re Smiling” comes along.

This is a cool yet boring movie that I very mildly recommend for fans of visual beauty. Everyone else can skip it.


“The Age of Shadows” is the latest film from director Jee-woon Kim (“The Good, the Bad, and the Weird,” “I Saw the Devil,” “The Last Stand“). While Kim continues to direct with an assured visual style, the subject matter of his newest film is nowhere nearly as compelling as those earlier outings.

The movie is set in 1920s Korea, when Seoul was under Japanese rule and resistance fighters worked to destroy the foreign government and restore the country to rule by its people. It was this aspect that I liked best about “The Age of Shadows”: I was able to learn much about this turbulent time in Korea’s history, something about which I previously knew nothing. It encouraged me to learn more, and presented the conflicts and the personalities in a compelling narrative format that helped me understand the frustration and difficulty of living under foreign rule.

The script and plot are good enough to do the job, but little else. Whereas Director Kim’s earlier films are notable for their strong storylines, “The Age of Shadows” is not particularly memorable. I liked it well enough, but it’s a movie I’ll barely remember having seen a year from now.

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