Remembering Korea's unsung heroes
THE year is 1933. A female sniper, a gun expert and a bomb expert are pulled into an unlikely ragtag team by a political mastermind to assassinate two key figures in the Japanese regime governing Korea. Their plan is revealed to a ruthless paid assassin, who begins to hunt them down.
The plot of the upcoming film Assassination, starring My Sassy Girl (2001) actress Jun Ji Hyun, is already thrilling enough to be a box-office success.
But, according to director Choi Dong Hoon, the aim of the movie is to tell the story of those who fought for justice in Korea's darkest era.
"I read a lot of books while preparing this movie," Choi said during a press conference at CGV Apgujeong on Monday.
"When I was looking through photos of the independence fighters, I came across a lot of people that have gone down in history, but also photos of people whose names we would never know.
"It gave me a strange feeling. I began to wonder how they lived, where their courage came from. I wanted to make a film remembering those who should never be forgotten."
In order to bring those people to life, Choi - who helmed past hits like Tazza: The High Rollers (2006) and The Thieves (2012) - brought together an all-star cast.
Jun, also known as Gianna Jun, plays the female shooter leading the assassination plot.
She is reunited with her Il Mare (2000) and The Thieves co-star, heart-throb Lee Jung Jae, who plays the part of the mysterious mastermind in Assassination.
Ha Jung Woo (The Chaser, 2008; The Unforgiven, 2005), plays a mercenary assassin.
The film took a long time to make. Choi first had the idea for Assassination while shooting Tazza, and scrapped an earlier version of the script in order to create a movie with more depth.
"We actually spoke about the movie quite a bit when we were promoting The Thieves," said Jun.
"When he told me about the film, I knew that it would be a truly unique story. I suggested a lot of different ideas to him, but when the final script came out, I was so surprised," she said.
"The characters were so diverse, and the plot was riveting. I was amazed that the story we had talked about could end up like this."
Assassination was filmed over five months in Shanghai and Seoul, with elaborate action scenes taking place on sprawling, lavish sets recreating the ambience of 1930s Gyeongseong (Seoul's name at the time) and the provisional government of Korea in Shanghai.
"I felt that the best environment for the actors to bring out their characters required accurate re-creations of the clothing and spaces of the 1930s," Choi said.
The film cost an impressive 18 billion won (S$21.8 million) to make, bringing together South Korea's top names in costuming, set design, lighting and production.
"The Korean independence movement was a long fight, with heroes that are unimaginable for ordinary people like me," Choi said.
"I wanted to make this an entertaining and meaningful film. I tried my very best to express the rough, agonising and lonely emotion of those years."
THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
Assassination is slated to open in Singapore cinemas on Sept 17.