Monday, August 19, 2013

Film Review: The Berlin File (2013)

The Berlin File (Review)
South Korea/2013
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...The Berlin File never fails to entertain."

An illegal arms deal is abruptly disrupted by unknown and unexpected assailants, which, in turn, leaves North Korean spy Pyo Jong-seong (Ha Jung-woo) with no option other than a daring escape. Set up and betrayed, Jong-seong can't trust anyone, including his own wife and fellow comrades. Soon, Jong-seong finds himself facing off against South Korean intelligence agent Jung Jin-soo (Han Suk-kyu) and North Korean fixer Dong Myung-soo (Ryoo Seung-bum).

The Berlin File features a story with abundant information -- the introduction has so much information to soak up, it may be overwhelming for some viewers. That, and the fact that the film is filled with twists and turns, is the reason I won't go deep into detail for the story. However, I will be brief with the main points of the story: it essentially follows Pyo Jong-seong as he tries to find the person that set him up, whether it be his wife or his own government, and his quest leads him to a brutal reality -- people betray. This incredible story of loyalty and betrayal leads up to an incredible ending once again proving South Korea as an unpredictable force of cinematic magic.

As I previously stated, The Berlin File has a fully-loaded story -- along with the introduction, the first half of the film is mostly dominated by dialogue with occasional breaks of action. The second half of the film, however, is an action-packed thrill ride. The action consists of amazing shootouts, intense and brutal close quarter combat, and daring chases; the final sequence even features a tense cat-and-mouse showdown and a superb pistol fight. I'd say The Berlin File features spectacularly choreographed and impressively diversified action sequences -- some of the most thrilling captured to date. This is no lightweight when it comes to story or action as it excels in both.

The acting is superb from the entire cast. Ha Jung-woo is impressive as he captures his intimidating, cool character yet manages to show genuine emotion on demand. Ryoo Seung-bum is equally impressive with his sinisterly charismatic character -- he plays his character with such a devilish smile. The film is shot beautifully, and the cinematography is impressive. The music is great as it really adds to the thrills. The action is stunningly choreographed, especially the superb fistfights. Ryoo Seung-wan brilliantly writes and directs The Berlin File, but not without flaw. This is a story that would've benefited from a slightly longer  runtime to fit some more details and allow some breathing room -- it is occasionally difficult to follow.

As usual, the first print South Korean Blu-ray is high quality. The slipcover is beautiful and the two disc set -- which are both Blu-ray discs -- come packaged in a nice digipak; the first disc features the film and some special features, the second disc is loaded with more special features. Picture and sound quality are superb, you can really see a significant technical upgrade in the South Korean films of the last 10 years -- as a fan, it feels great to see the technical advancements compliment the amazing stories South Korea has brought upon us.

Overall, The Berlin File is a fantastic spy thriller -- from its captivating story to its jaw-dropping action sequences, along with an impressive cast, The Berlin File never fails to entertain. As South Korean action film, it's better than A Company Man; and, as an action spy thriller, it's slightly better than Skyfall. (only slightly, though.)

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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