The Age of Shadows is exactly that: an espionage film about the Korean resistance fighting Japanese rule in the late 1920s. The film focuses on two main characters – ex-independence movement member-turned-Japanese police chief, Captain Lee (Song Kang-ho), and antiques proprietor, photography shop owner and resistance general, Gong Yoo (Kim Woo-jin).
Action-packed from the start, the film follows Captain Lee as he attempts to track down the resistance, under pressure from the Japanese government and the slightly over-zealous Japanese agent sent to assist him, Hashimoto (Um Tae-Goo). Captain Lee gets closer to the truth and suspense builds – cue a series of intense action scenes that put most Western spy movies to shame.
This is the Korean equivalent to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), without the long drawn-out scenes but with humour added, the lot topped with those beautifully choreographed action sequences. It also offers a good counterpart to Tinker's Gary Oldman character, George Smiley, in Song Kang-ho. As the previous lead from Jee-woon’s excellent Korean western The Good, The Bad, The Weird, Song Kang-ho not only brings comedy to The Age of Shadows with little more than a few brilliantly timed expressions, yet is equally capable of playing serious.
While The Age of Shadows can be slightly over the top, this doesn't distract from the more sombre parts. The goriness of some scenes, although pretty disturbing, always seems necessary, unlike, say, the amount of exploding heads or dismemberment you see in a Tarantino movie. Every scene is immaculately shot, with some of the beautiful camera work looking close to that seen in Wes Anderson movies.
Fantastic storytelling and great performances lead you to become deeply invested in each character, making The Age of Shadows a stylish mix of the exciting and the resonant – accessible for newcomers and satisfying for existing Kim Jee-woon fans.
|The Age of Shadows film review
|Various Locations | MAP
|Leicester Square (underground)
24 Mar 17 – 24 May 17, Times vary
|£determined by cinema