North Korean spies tug at the heartstrings

PLAYING THE FOOL: Top North Korean spy Won Ryu Hwan (played by Kim Soo Hyun, right) disguises himself as a fool and assimilates into a rural community while waiting for orders.


    Jul 17, 2013

    North Korean spies tug at the heartstrings


    Action drama/124 minutes

    Rating: 4/5

    ACTION-PACKED, melodramatic and thoroughly evocative, South Korean film Secretly, Greatly is a gripping watch from start to finish.

    This action film primarily revolves around the experiences of three North Korean elite spies who infiltrate the South with the ultimate mission of unifying Korea.

    Top agent Won Ryu Hwan (played by Kim Soo Hyun), disguised as a fool, hides in a rural and humble community while waiting for orders from the North Korean authorities. However, he unknowingly builds a forbidden relationship with the townsfolk.

    Two years into the wait, he meets fellow elite agents Hae Rang (Park Ki Woong) and Hae Jin (Lee Hyun Woo), disguised as an aspiring rock musician and a high-school student respectively.

    Dark and menacing undertones pervade the film, foreshadowing the impending doom that faces the three soldiers.

    Based on the Web comic Covertness by Hun (birth name Choi Jong Hoon), which was published in June 2010, Secretly, Greatly is directed by Jang Cheol Soo.

    Kim's ability to portray contrasting attitudes in his performance as the conflicted Won is undeniably commendable.

    The movie starts off slow but charges quickly into the action scenes, which take centrestage after the big reveal.

    The sequences are pounded out with sheer speed and absolute precision in its choreography. It is sure to keep viewers on the edge of their seats.

    Precipitated by director Jang's strong mise-en-scene - his choice of dilapidated setting and gloomy weather - the film achieves cinematic perfection, as the action is enhanced by the setting.

    The fusion of stark action and drama, with a slight comic overtone, is thoroughly compelling.

    The emotional ending is superficially disappointing, but conceptually inevitable.

    Secretly, Greatly was a hit in South Korea, boasting the highest single-day domestic film opening, with 498,282 tickets sold on the day of its release, surpassing the record held previously by The Host.

    A definite must-watch, Secretly, Greatly is a dark and ominous tale of falsity, deception and forbidden liberty. How the innocent nature of the spies is exploited by the North Korean authorities is sure to evoke tears of sympathy.

    Secretly, Greatly opens in cinemas tomorrow.