[Review] Faith – 신의

DO I GOTTA HAVE FAITH, FAITH, FAITH?

Yoo Eun Soo (Kim Hee Sun) is a plastic surgeon in modern day Korea when she is kidnapped by Choi Young (Lee Min Ho), a Goryeo era warrior.  He takes her through a portal back to his time so that she could apply some of her medical skills there until she becomes stranded.  The drama is a mix of supernatural elements beyond the time traveling aspect of it as some of the characters possess special powers and abilities.

It was nice to see that Lee Min Ho and Kim Hee Sun had some great chemistry together.  The age gap did worry me a bit.  I don’t really care how old the actors are but you can’t help not think of the actor/actress’ ages.  What matters is how they appear with each other in front of the camera.  Kim Hee Sun’s Eun Soo was plucky and immature with a high-pitched aegyo voice that made her seem youthful which provided a good contrast with Lee Min Ho’s deep voice and stoic acting.  But I’m used to see Lee Min Ho play these type of characters and it makes me wonder if he can do anything else.

Unfortunately, I grew less interested in Choi Young and Eun Soo as time went on. I cared what happened to their characters but it was more about the importance of their character in the larger plot rather than their romance.  I don’t want to sound girly but maybe if we got some more couple action I wouldn’t feel as indifferent.

Though I didn’t have the desire to see them get coupled up, I did love the friendship between Eun Soo and the court physician, Jang Bin (Lee Philip).  I was a little sad that Lee Philip had to bow out of the drama earlier than expected but the jury is still out on how I feel about that as it didn’t seem like Jang Bin had much a role in the drama as it progressed.

Instead, my heart went out to King Gong Min’s (Ryu Duk Hwan) and Princess Noh Gook’s (Park Se Young) relationship.  I simply love watching this couple blossom individually and together as a couple.  Gong Min started out as such an ineffectual king and coward.  He didn’t care about much except his paintings.

The princess who later becomes queen was a strong character that challenged Gong Min to not only transform into a better leader but a better person.  I think the fact that Ryu Duk Hwan is pretty short in stature helped to visualize his character as a small man that is filling some large shoes.

Usually when I watch a sageuk or even a fusion sageuk, I like to look up the history of it.  I know some basics (thank you mom for the Korean language classes that you forced upon me) but I’m more knowledgeable about the 20th Century Korean history after the fall of the monarchy.  However, this was one drama where I didn’t really feel the pressure to look up King Gong Min and his reign.  There are a couple things that I know about him like he wasn’t an effective king, he’s well-known for his paintings and his reign started turning the tide for beginnings of the Joseon Dynasty but that’s about it.  History does have its place but it doesn’t appear that the writers went too deep into how Eun Soo affects the history beyond the general broad strokes.

Rather, what’s more important is the theme of faith that runs through the drama.  It’s obviously important as there is a reason why they chose it for the title.  It’s interesting to note that when the producers came out with the hanja of the title, they wrote it as “神醫” which means God or Heavenly Doctor referring to Eun Soo.  However, they changed it to “信義” which means faith or believe in what’s right.  Both are pronounced the same way but it interesting how the focus changed from the main character to the overall theme of the drama.

The thing about faith is that it comes hand in hand with trust.  Do the subjects have faith in the Gong Min as their leader?

Do the members of Woodalchi have faith in Choi Young?  Does Eun Soo have faith in Choi Young’s promise to protect her and return her to her time?

Does Gong Min have the faith that Choi Young has his back and vice versa?  The tricky but fascinating thing is when it comes to the politics here, their faith is constantly shaken and tested.  But as they come to understand each other, they come to have faith in one another.

Even the villains have to determine how much faith plays in their plotting to usurp the king.  Can they really have faith in one another when they don’t really know each other’s true motives?  While Ki Chul (Yoo Oh Sung) is a villain, I can really say that he consistently stays the villain throughout.  Don’t get me wrong.  He’s one bad guy but more so than that he’s a politician who is just trying to position himself well.  Through Eun Soo, he sees an opportunity that’s better than the throne as everyone in Goryeo believes her to be sent from the heavens.

However a nice surprise comes more than halfway through the drama when we meet Duk Heung Goon (Park Yoon Jae), the king’s uncle who has sights on the throne.  He’s always one step ahead and though both he and Ki Chul are underhanded, Ki Chul learns that teaming up with Duk Heung Goon isn’t always in his best interest.  They are both bad people but the levels are different.

I’ve mentioned the supernatural elements to the drama.  Some of the characters have abilities whether it’s the power to freeze people with your hands, burn them, and have super sensitive hearing or the ability to use high-pitched sounds as a weapon.  I get the reference that these are powerful people with a talent for combat and how faith in your ability and not just your special powers can determine whether you’re able to defeat your enemy but it just didn’t seem to make a very strong impression in the drama.  It’s was a very weak link in the arc of the story that I wonder if it would have been better to have just left it out altogether.

On the other hand, the cameo appearances by some veteran actors left a more everlasting impression on me.  Particularly, Choi Min Soo and Park Sang Won from the production staff’s previous mega hits, Sandglass and Legend.  With Son Yoo (Park Sang Won), it was fascinating to see the political struggle the king and his men had to face since the alliance between Mongolia and Korea was a precarious one.  It really defined King Gong Min as a character and how far he’s come since the beginning of the drama.  Moon Chi Hoo (Choi Min Soo) and how he had come to vacate his post as the general of Woodalchi (aka Crescent Moon Warriors) was a nice window into Choi Young’s backstory.  I mean, damn.  Shedding a blood tear?  You don’t get more powerful than that.

Finally, the cinematography and the soundtrack complete the world of Faith.  While the shabby camerawork in the first 10 minutes of Episode 1 of the drama concerned me greatly, the rest of the episode put me at ease about the vision for the series.

There was a nice union between the mystic and higher power elements of the drama and some of the more dreamlike moments of the drama.

I also like the score for the drama which was done by Oh Joon Sung who previously did City Hunter.  The score is sweeping and epic and at times reminded me of the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack.

Oh Joon Sung – Faith (Main Title-Choral ver.)

오준성 – Faith (Main Title-Choral ver.)

Oh Joon Sung – Move & Run (Original ver.)

오준성 – Move & Run (Original ver.)

However, the important thing was there was a more cohesive flow between the instrumental and non-instrumental tracks like Jang Hye Jin and MC Sniper’s “나쁜 사람 (Bad Person)”.  Unlike Arang and the Magistrate which was very random at times.

Jang Hye Jin & MC Sniper – 나쁜 사람 (Bad Person)

장혜진 & MC 스나이퍼 – 나쁜 사람

Faith is one of those dramas that knows the rules and plays it professionally.  There were times when I didn’t exactly feel the love for the drama because it felt like it didn’t know how to work the fantasy aspect in which on some level diminished the epic feeling to the drama.  However, I think we got what we needed from the drama in the end.  There was a moment when I thought the issue of the time traveling was going to end up being this MacGuffin that I should ignore but I was pleased that it wrapped up in a nice, neat bow.  At least, we’re not left hanging.  *Ahemrooftopprincecough*

Rating

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