[Review] The Berlin File/Berlin – 베를린

JUST A TYPICAL DAY IN BERLIN

When a North Korean weapons deal goes awry, a South Korean intelligence operative, Jung Jin Soo (Han Suk Kyu) comes across an unidentifiable agent known as a “ghost”.  That ghost is Pyo Jong Seong (Ha Jung Woo) and while Jin Soo and Jong Seong are on opposite sides, they both uncover an international conspiracy involving the late Kim Jong Il and his secret bank account.

Suspecting a traitor among the ranks, North Korean Agent Dong Myung Soo (Ryu Seung Beom) is dispatched to Berlin to try and seek him out.

I had to watch this movie five different times.  Not because the movie is bad or hard to understand but you have to be focused solely on watching the movie.  My first attempt failed because I tried to watch it late at night right before going to bed and alas sleep won me over.  Then I tried to watch the movie on the go on my phone, but that was a complete failure because I couldn’t appreciate the action scenes.  I mean my SG3 is great for watching on the go but watching a night action scene in bright sunlight setting on a 4 inch screen isn’t really ideal for this movie.  You just can’t appreciate the cinematography that way.  So suffice it to say that I set aside time one weekend afternoon to watch the movie on a big screen TV in one sitting from beginning to end.

As I expected, Han Suk Kyu plays the overworked, underappreciated Jin Soo with that level of brashness that you expect from the actor.  Lots of snarky comments and cursing.  He’s excellent at but I did find his English speaking scenes a bit awkward and comically amusing.  At first, you’d think that a covert agent would try to keep it on the down low, you know… in order to remain covert.  However, in terms of being an intelligence operative, Jin Soo’s skill lies in recruiting.  So I began to forgive his booming personality as it was used to depict Jin Soo as a maverick or in their words an “old dog”.

As for Ha Jung Woo, I’ve seen this silent strong macho act from him before.  He does it so well while maintaining the audience’s sympathy for his character.  Jong Seong is a nice contract when you compare him to Jin Soo.  Jin Soo is loud and garrulous while Jong Seong is stoic and calculating.  While I may have wondered how Jin Soo maintains to stay under the radar, there’s no doubt that Jong Seong can blend in the crowd, even in a city like Berlin.

From the get-go, I loved how Dong Myung Soo is characterized for the viewer.  You get a clear idea of his skill as an operative and assassin.  Perhaps, it’s because it’s Ryu Seung Beom but I always feel like he’s typecasted in certain types of roles for his ability to be comical and odd.  It was a nice change of pace to see him expand his horizons as an actor.  He’s so adept in the North Korean accent and Dong Myung Soo bring out many levels of his acting all at once.  I just wouldn’t want to be the person playing poker with him.

However the biggest casting surprise has got to be Jun Ji Hyun who plays Jong Seong’s wife, Ryeon Jung Hee.  She’s one of Korea’s sexiest actresses but I feel that most of her roles yield towards the trendy which flaunts her sex appeal more than her acting.  Nothing wrong with that.  Got shake it if you got it, right?

However, it’s so refreshing to see Jun Ji Hyun transform into a Plain Jane because you can just sit back and focus on her acting.  On the surface, Jung Hee appears emotionless but for the viewer she’s able to express the most subtle emotions revealing Jung Hee’s innermost feelings.  It’s a treat to watch Jun Ji Hyun in this movie because I think she’s just begun to tap into different aspects of her acting.

It’s hard to know who to believe in this thrilling spy flick.  There are so many sides at play and no allegiances.  Should the Americans get their hands on the commie operative?  Or does his information belong to the South Koreans?  Or do the North Koreans get to keep their secrets intact?  And while you’re trying to answer those questions, the story throw in a twist sending in you an entirely different direction.  The movie is clearly 3 steps ahead of the viewer and the performances are great.  I love that the movie reminds me of The Third Man.

I only wish that it doesn’t leave you with an open ending.  I hope Korea isn’t planning to make this into a trilogy because as much as that happens in America, there are many of us who groan at the franchising overkill.  Can’t we just let a good thing just be?

Rating

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