The Spy Gone North (2018) - South Korea
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
Films about South Korean government agencies sending spies into North Korea is fast becoming a cliche genre. Luckily, “The Spy Gone North” provides an different realistic look and venture through layers of both North and South characters without being stereotypical figureheads (with the exceptions of the portrayal of Kim Jong-II). With that being said, director Yoon Jong-bin whose body of work include “The Berlin File” smartly merges comic timing with the tense and danger of the situation to create a highly engaging film where the audience cares for our hero the spy Black Venus (carried so convincingly by Hwang Jung-min) and the predicament of North Korean general (captured perfectly by Lee Sung-min). It is ultimately their friendship and common vision for their country above personal and political agendas that ended up the film most touching moment.
Veteran Hwang Jung-min underpins the difficult and complicated emotions of a South Korean spy who slowly understands the real underlying selfish and greed intentions of his intelligence agency. It is his chemistry and friendship with Lee Sung-min playing the North Korean general that remains the highlight of the film. Lee plays the character with guided characteristics and slowly opens up to Hwang as do their mutual trust despite their political allegiance. Ju Ji Hoon shows a more cold blooded natured North Korean security head, meanwhile Cho Jin-woong plays Hwang’s boss is rather underdeveloped in comparison.
All in all, “The Spy Gone North” is a highly enjoyable and entertaining spy thriller that works well by being based on a true story. The numerous twists and turns add layers to the already dangerous and complicated situations. The political and personal agendas and dealings between South and North provides an interesting backdrop and insight as to how the two countries exist in the past. We also see how characters react to different life and death situations thrown at them. Ultimately, the film succeeds and it’s a great story that unfolds, folds and unfolds again.
I rated it 8/10