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  • In Focus: The Berlin File
  • by Pierce Conran /  Feb 07, 2013

  • Directed By RYOO Seung-wan
    Featuring HA Jung-woo, HAN Suk-kyu, JUN Ji-hyun, RYOO Seung-bum, LEE Geung-young
    Release Date January 29
      
    January was a huge month for Korean cinema at the local marquees. Following the astounding successes of disaster film The Tower, gangster shaman comedy Man on the Edge and prison drama comedy Miracle in Cell No. 7, an even bigger film hit the stage at the end of the month. The Berlin File is the most high profile Korean release since the one-two punch of The Thieves and Masquerade last year. Featuring a powerhouse A-list cast consisting of HA Jung-woo, HAN Suk-kyu, JUN Ji-hyun and RYOO Seung-bum, the 10 billion won ($10 million) budget spy thriller handily recorded the third highest opening weekend in Korea’s history.
     
    Director RYOO Seung-wan has seen his profile as an action maestro steadily rise ever since his low-budget debut Die Bad signaled his arrival on the stage back in 2000. With the help of stuntman JUNG Doo-hong, his longtime stunt collaborator, he has consistently impressed viewers with his kinetic blend of martial arts and quickly-paced narratives across works such as No Blood No Tears (2002), Arahan (2004) Crying Fist (2005), The City of Violence (2006), Dachimawa Lee (2008) and The Unjust (2010).
     
    Set in the German capital, The Berlin File follows a secret North Korean agent who gets embroiled in an arms deal with the Mossad and quickly finds himself up against a South Korean agent. Soon he encounters trouble from his own camp, as his wife, an interpreter in the North Korean embassy, comes under suspicion of being a double agent. As another ruthless operative is sent in from the secretive communist state to take hold of the situation, the agent is force to choose a side: the wife he loves or the country he serves.
     
    Shot on location in Berlin and Latvia, the film’s aesthetic fashions an immersive aura of intrigue reminiscent of the cold war. Double crosses and mystery abound as shady characters from all over the world crisscross through historic European streets, exchanging secretive words in different languages. Characters find themselves in many small spaces and when the action stakes are raised these place are used to claustrophobic and electrifying effect.
     
    Perhaps the most accomplished Korean action film to date, The Berlin File is an ambitious production that combines all of the Korean film industry’s considerable technical abilities. A confident word realized on a grand scale, RYOO’s latest only adds to his credentials as a purveyor of top-flight commercial entertainment.
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