Starring: Han Suk Kyu (Tree with Deep Roots, Christmas in August, Tell Me Something, etc.), Kim Yoon Jin (America’s Lost, Yesterday, Seven Days, etc.), Choi Min Sik (Old Boy, I Saw the Devil, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, etc.), Song Kang Ho (The Host, Memories of Murder, etc.)
Twinkies: 4 out of 5
Synopsis: Hailed as one of South Korea’s first blockbuster action films that ushered in a wave of movies sophisticated enough to compete in the international film industry, Shiri tells a story of espionage, assassinations, and love.
The film opens in a North Korean military training camp, under the strict supervision of its fanatical leader, Park Mu Young (Choi Min Sik), who singles out the beautiful and talented Lee Bang Hee (Kim Yun Jin) for a covert mission across the 38th parallel into South Korea. As one of his best trainees, Hee passes his grueling program and leaves to complete her murderous mission.
A couple of years later, South Korean intelligence agents Yu Jong Won (Han Suk Kyu) and Lee Jang Gil (Song Kang Ho) are assigned to track down Hee. Unbeknownst to Yu, the sought-after assassin is not too far from his reach, a startling realization that leads to a tense moment of confrontation towards the movie’s end.
Musings: This was one of the first Korean movies I saw as well as the only performance of actress Kim Yoon Jin, made famous for her role in America’s Lost. (No, I did not watch Lost. By this time, I had pretty much stopped watching American television. LOL) Before she was ever a well-known American actress, though, she made a name for herself in the Korean movies, and Shiri‘s climax when Yu confronts Hee is a testament of Kim Yoon Jin’s power and skill as an actress worthy of such accolades.
Given that this movie was filmed back in the 20th century (1999!), it does a solid job of depicting the action scenes; obviously, the Korean film industry has become much more sophisticated in its filming techniques since that time. I remember enjoying the film and noting the nice blending of storytelling with appropriate interspersings of action sequences.
However, the two things that I remember most about this film and ultimately what prompted me to select Shiri as this week’s “Movie Monday” pick are two scenes toward the end:
1. The confrontation scene when Yu finally comes face to face with the ever-elusive Hee…I recall being floored by the absolutely superb acting.
2. The ending of the film that gives the viewer insight into Hee’s character and her commitment to accomplish her mission at any cost…even at the cost of losing herself and her identity. I appreciated how the movie ends on a peaceful note, especially after all the chasing and shooting, to emphasize the conclusion of one phase of life and perhaps the start of another phase? 🙂
If you are the type of person who can handle action movies, this is one you may want to try. There are some beautiful themes and motifs that run throughout the film, ones that can challenge your understanding of what a person can do for the love of his and her respective countries and the tragedy of a country divided in two. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the stellar performances of Korea’s top actors and hope you enjoy them, too!
Happy “Movie Monday”! 😉