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Go featuring a CG animated gorilla, from the director of 200 Pound Beauty and Take Off. As the film opens, North Korean intelligence officer Pyo Jong-seong (Ha Jung-woo, Yellow Sea, The Terror Live) is negotiating an arms deal with a band of Middle Eastern terrorists. Many domestic viewers compared the film to the Jason Bourne series, but despite a few superficial concession to the latter's fragmentary style, The Berlin File is a throwback to the "serious" espionage thrillers of '60s and '70s, films such as The Quiller Memorandum (1966, also set in Berlin and written by Harold Pinter), A Dandy in Aspic (1968) and Three Days of Condor (1975).(Written on April 11) Reviewed below: The Berlin File (Jan 30) -- How to Use Guys with Secret Tips (Feb 14) -- New World (Feb 21) -- Nobody's Daughter Haewon (Feb 28) -- Jiseul (Mar 21) -- Very Ordinary Couple (Mar 21) -- Horror Stories 2 (Jun 5) -- Cold Eyes (Jul 3) -- The Terror Live (Jul 31) -- The Face Reader (Sep 11) -- Our Sunhi (Sep 12) -- The Russian Novel (Sep 19) -- Hwayi: A Monster Boy (Oct 9) -- City: Hall (Oct 24) -- Blood and Ties (Oct 24) -- The Commitment (Nov 6) -- Steel Cold Winter (Nov 7) -- The Fake (Nov 21). Ryoo, who also penned the film's unusually (for him) taut screenplay, again seems to have achieved what he does arguably better than almost any other Korean filmmaker: to come up with a film firmly grounded in the Euro-American genre conventions and at the same time in the unique features of the Korean historical experience-in this case, a bona fide Cold War espionage film entirely bereft of nostalgia, for the simple reason that for North and South Koreans of today the Cold War still remains an unassailable "reality." I initially approached The Berlin File with some trepidation, since what I had heard through grapevine about the film made me anticipate something on the order of a commercialized hybrid between The City of Violence (2006) and Park Chan-wook's Joint Security Area (2000), in which the North-South relations, perhaps in the form of a macho male-bonding between Northern and Southern agents, would be at the center stage.fter a record-breaking box office run in 2012, Korean cinema continued to flex its muscles in the early part of 2013.Theatrical admissions for local films in the first quarter of 2013 were the highest of any three-month period in Korean film history, thanks to hits like Ryoo Seung-wan's The Berlin File, gangster epic New World and especially the sentimental comic drama Miracle in Cell No. The latter film, featuring an ensemble cast led by RYU Seung-ryong, became the third best-selling Korean film in history with close to 13 million admissions.Here, his casting of Ha Jung-woo and Jeon Ji-hyun is excellent.
The actor playing opposite her, Oh Jung-se, portrays a massively popular star who initially treats Bona with disdain, but later falls for her charm.(Kyu Hyun Kim) Choi Bona is overworked and underpaid in one of Korea's most selfless jobs: she is an assistant director.Casually disregarded by her work colleagues, she knows that her career is going nowhere, but there's nothing she can do about it. Stranded on a beach in the middle of nowhere, she comes across an eccentric middle-aged man selling inspirational videos. How to Use Guys with Secret Tips is in some ways a fairly standard Korean romantic comedy, except that it's funnier and more engaging, and ultimately much better than you would expect.Rather than paying lip services to the "Northerners are human beings too" rhetoric of ethnic reconciliation, the film addresses the fact that the Cold War ideology still survives in North Korea precisely because it serves the interests of the top-of-the-food-chain jackals like Dong (and his clan, the paterfamilias of which is played by Myung Gye-nam in an amusing cameo), who continued to fatten themselves at the expense of ordinary working stiffs like Pyo and Ryeon.As Dong sneers at one point, "People always change," even if the ideology remains unchanged.