Korean Movie Night: Operation Chromite

 

banner22

As part of the monthly “Korean Movie Night” program, The Korean Cultural Center of NY paired up with AMC Empire 25 to give New Yorkers a pre-screening of South Korea’s latest blockbuster film, “Operation Chromite”. Set to premiere on August 12 in New York City, “Operation Chromite” is a historical action film based on the Icheon Mission during the South Korean War. The Icheon mission was considered the most impossible feat with the chances of success 1:50,000. Due to its location in the peninsula with a very narrow river and with the communist faction in control of its terrain, the ability to land at Icheon is a great military risk. The mission however, proved successful with the efforts of the South Korean patriot spies infiltrating the Communist controlled Icheon.

The film features an all-star cast of famous Korean actors. Lee Jung-jae, a popular South Korean action star. He previously premiered as a double-spy agent in “Assassination” (2015) and as a underdog detective-cop in “Veteran” (2015). In “Operation Chromite” he takes on the complex character of Jang Hak-su, a communist defector who works as a spy for the U.S and South Korean forces. General Douglas MacArthur is played by Liam Neeson, famous for his Oscar-winning performance in the historical drama film “Schindler’s List”, which takes place in WWII Europe. The film also features actors Kim Byung-Ok (Oldboy/Lady Vengeance), Park Sung-woong ( New World/ The Deal) and Oh Dal-su (Assassination/ Veteran).

The story begins with a brief introduction to the spy team that infiltrates a train with a troop of communist soldiers in order to infiltrate the main communist base in Icheon. Once at Icheon, the spy team tries to find blueprints for the maritime tactics which only the Communist Commander Rim Kye-jin knows. Jang Hak-su, the main leader of the squad, attempts to befriend Rim Kye-jin to retrieve the info. However, the squad’s cover is exposed resulting in various shootouts, executions, kidnapping and more risky operations. Since it is a film, there are plenty of heart-wrenching moments, such as when the soldiers say good-bye to their families before leaving to their next mission and the final words between master and servant before their execution. The communist in this film, are depicted as the villains who persecute anyone who goes against the communist ideals. The commander Rim Kye-jin often says “Ideology runs thicker than blood”, as a justification for his orders to execute people who are religious, still have Confucius ideals, or speak against communism in general. Unlike other war films, the director doesn’t censor any of the violence and often spends a few extra minutes to depict the human emotion in consequence of the raw brutality. A recurring theme throughout the film is the concept of loyalty to family, tradition, and patriotism. Each character has their own idea of what their country means to them, which is shown through flashbacks of when each spy met General Arthur MacDouglas. Even Rim Kye-jin, the main villain, confesses at the end, “All we want is to live a better life, right?”. General Arthur MacDouglas, is mostly depicted as a father figure to the spies, for granting them a second chance to fight for their country as seen through flashback encounters when he arrives at the war stricken peninsula. His inner tenderness is shown through his impressions of the courage he saw in each soldier he enlisted and ultimately in his complete trust on the spies to signal him when the mission is completed. However, we also the general’s toughness when he meets with the other military commanders to talk about the operation often dubbed “Another Normandy attempt”.

The film in content is patriotic to the South Korean – U.S alliance, especially with the closing credits dedicating the film to the 17 members of the spy squad and their families for their sacrifices during the war. “Operation Chromite” is a reminder to the U.S of its contributions to the Korean War of 1950, often dubbed as “The Forgotten War” in U.S history. In contemporary South Korea, it serves as a reminder of the importance of the U.S – South Korea alliance and the sacrifices that were made during the War of 1950. The film is also patriotic for premiering on South Korea’s 63rd Anniversary of the Korean Armistice and the 66th anniversary of the UN Forces joining the operation. “Operation Chromite” is Director John H. Lee’s second war film, after “71: Into the Fire” (2010). The film’s recent success has gained him a reputation as a one of the rising international East Asian directors.

Advertisements

NYAFF16: Inside Men Premiere

NYAFF2016 paired up with the Korean Cultural Center of NY to bring Korea’s newest cinema from their ingenious directors featuring the best actors Lee Byung-hun, Yoo Ah-in, Park Jung-Min, and others.

inside-men.jpg

At NYAFF2016, Actor Lee Byung-hun made an appearance at the premiere of the newest crime-thriller film “Inside Men”. Known as South Korea’s “Tom Cruise”, he has accomplished many first in his career including being the first Asian to present an award at the 2015 Academy Oscars.

At NYAFF, Lee Byung-hun was presented the Star Asia Award for his continuous contributions to cinema. Actor Lee Byung-hun gave his thanks to NYAFF, to his supporters and to his wife, who made a short appearance on stage.

13613265_10154326868409539_4293867463789965602_o
Actor Lee Byung-hun and Festival Director Samuel Jamier at the Inside Men Premiere NYAFF16

“Inside Men” is based on the popular manhwa in Korea with the same title. The author of the webtoon, Yoon Tae-ho, is also famous for his story “Moss” which became a blockbuster hit in 2010 and “Misaeng”, which became a drama series in 2014. “Inside Men” is an intense story about the corruption scheme between corporate leaders, journalists, gangsters and a prosecutor that wants to take them all to the justice room. The main protagonist, An Sang-gu, is a gangster who has received many benefits as a middleman for congressman Jang Pil-woo and journalist Lee Gang-hee, both powerful influences in their businesses. Jang Pil-woo in the film is a forerunner in South Korea’s elections. During this campaign, An Sang-gu is caught stealing the secret documents of the slush fund that Jang Pil-woo and Lee Gang-hee share. The prosecutor, Woo Jang-hoon, has caught rumors about the secret documents and allies himself with An Sang-gu to find the evidence. An Sang-gu is determined to get the ultimate revenge and plots out a scheme of his own while helping the prosecutor. Meanwhile, the politician and journalist are always one step ahead of them, throwing the prosecutor and gangster off course and back to square one. It takes wits, undercover spying, and risks from all sides to expose the larger than life corruption scheme. The film is intense emotionally and in content. There are many characters and details to keep in mind such as the henchmen and their roles in the scheme. The film does its best to incorporate a balance of humor and crime thriller moments before transitioning to intense action.

13627128_10154326979309539_2615118993736016549_n
Q&A with Actor Lee Byung-hun and Festival director Samuel Jamier

Before the film, there was a Q&A with Actor Lee Byung-hun about his character in “Inside Men”, and his role in the upcoming film “Magnificent Seven”. He noted that the gangster he plays changed from the original character to add more realism and a bit of comic relief, such as when he drops his cell phone when trying to run away from a henchman and eating the ramen noodles. He also spoke briefly about the Magnificent Seven, “I loved watching Western movies as a kid so being in a real Western movie is a dream come true.”

Korean Movie Night NY: “Veteran”

 

2e414c7653addbd393581d1169af02e7

“Veteran” is an action comedy film directed by Ryoo Seung-wan and produced by Kang Hye-jung and Kim Jung-min. Known for his socio-political action films such as “Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance” and “The Berlin Files”,  Ryoo Seung-wan’s “Veteran” is his first film in the cop thriller genre. Humorous and intricate, there is still the socio-political theme incorporated in the plot with a good balance of drama and comedy. The film begins with a undercover cop operation of a international auto theft, then escalating into a battle against the Sun Jin Group corporation already under public scrutiny.

The conflict begins when Detective Seo Do-cheol (Hwang Jung-min) meets Tae-oh (Yoo Ah-in), the son of the executive of the Sun Jin Group, during a friend’s party. After the awkward confrontation, Detective Seo Do-cheol begins to suspect Tae-oh when he receives a call from Mr. Bae’s son, a truck driver who assisted during the auto theft investigation. Mr. Bae had suffered life threatening injuries and is in a coma due to mysterious circumstances. Detective Seo Do-cheol takes it upon himself to find the truth and justice for his friend. Mr. Bae’s son account gives Seo Do-cheol the first tip to investigating the corporation. However, Tae-oh’s middleman, Managing Director Choi (Yoo Hae-jin) keeps hindering his investigation.

With a balanced amount of humourous cliches, intense action and an intricate web of characters, the director is able to show the perspectives of both sides of the case with enough information to understand the backstory of the main characters. The director is also able to portray everyone’s state of mind, gambling their reputations and lives. It is a thought provoking film just like his previous works. This time, he portrays the facilitation of corruption in society where powerful influences overwhelm the importance of morality and justice. It’s thought provoking because he is able to show how these influences can impact anyone in society directly or indirectly regardless of socioeconomic class. The difference from his previous work is that he adds humour rather than making it a psychological horror or tragedy. He still maintains the psychological aspect for certain characters to add persona and to demonstrate how these situations can occur in reality. The action itself is full car chases and high flying kicks with fantastic acting, making the film emotionally intense, invigorating and intriguing.

“Veteran” debuted in NYC’s AMC Theater on September 21st and premiered at the Asia Society’s “Free Korean Movie Night” November 03rd. “Veteran” will also be screened at the 13th Annual Korean Film Festival featuring the director himself!

Korean Movie Night NY: “The Neighbors”

theneighbors_1

Korean digital comics also known as “webtoons” or “manhwa”, have become popular over the recent years. Seen as creative in their mixture of traditional and digital art, webtoons offer a variety of story lines in a non traditional form of graphic story telling.  As part of the Webtoon Exhibition hosted by the Korean Cultural Center of NY, there are free screenings of manhwa based films at the Asia Society.

“The Neighbors” or “이웃사람 i-oot-sa-ram” is directed by KIM Khan (aka Kim Hwi). The film is a suspenseful thriller based on the 2008 manhwa “The Neighbors” by Kang Full. The film begins with the horrific death of schoolgirl Yeo-sun (Kim Sae-ron) when a neighbor offers her a ride home late at night. When she doesn’t return home from her late night schooling, Block 101 comes under scrutiny after the murder.

All the neighbors are all overcome by fear as they notice more strange occurrences happening at the condominium complex. Things aren’t made any easier for the guilt stricken mother who was unable to pick up her daughter, by the presence of one of the neighbour’s daughter Soo-yeon (Kim Sae-ron), who bears a striking resemblance to her.

Filled with suspense, the film is very edgy and conveys the stained relationships that each of the neighbors have. What is also thrilling is the use of graphic effects used for depicting the psychological mind of the grief stricken mother, the security guard with a haunting past and even the murder’s state of mind, portraying the audience their own perception of reality. With some dark humor and unexpected heroes, the film also offers the audience a moment to reflect our moral obligations to society during times of danger and great need.  

For more free Korean film events visit the Korean Culture Service NY website: http://www.koreanculture.org

NYAFF15: Empire of Lust

 

“Empire of Lust” is a Korean historical fiction action film directed by Ahn Sang-Hoon.  Based in the Joseon Dynasty, the viewer is introduced to three prominent men who hold the stability in the kingdom. One is the noble but vicious fighter, Kim Min-jae (Shin Ha-kyun) who has a dark past and seeks vengeance against the kingdom’s invaders. For his great skill at combat and strategy, he’s promoted as general of the East Army and royal protector of the emperor himself. Meanwhile, his friend, Yi Bang-won (Jang Hyuk) is a carefree prince who is against the Emperor’s idea of a national army and is well connected with all the nobles of the land. The third is the adoptive son Jin (Ha-neul Kang ) of  Kim Min-jae, who is chosen to marry the Emperor’s daughter. However he’s secretively a rapist who rapes young peasant girls and uses his status to cover up his crimes.

The story unfolds at the present situation with Korea in constatnt threat of attacking foreign invaders. To improve defenses the Emperor’s military head decides to create a national army to concentrate manpower and resources. However there is much political conflict in such decisions through the present that Kim Min-jae and Yi Bang-won, are watching a courtesan dance when one of their friends starts to harass her. Kim Min-jae protects her knowing that his friend is violating her space and with a turn of fateful encounters after the incident, the two fall in love. Through a series of flashbacks, the audience discovers that the courtesan Ka-hee (Kang Han-na), is actually working with Prince Yi Bang-won in his goal to become the next emperor while she gains her revenge on Jin, who has raped her in the past. As the story progresses, she begins to question her motives as Kim Min-jae grants her the respect and kindness she never has received because of her lower class status. As the pieces fall into place, the film serves as a larger commentary on the larger consequences of how rape can define a person and society’s construct to quiet the victim in preference to status and reputation despite the moral wrong.

The film’s artistic cinematography such as the landscapes and romantic scenes which reflect the characters desire for peace and tranquility in the midst of a system that values chivalry in battle. The film isn’t for the faint of heart and considering how there was various characters involved with their own back-story that could have been expanded on, the film did nicely in condescending it to focus on two back stories. The ending was a bit rushed and did rely heavily on flashbacks to convey more of the character’s back story. Other than that the actors and actresses did a fascinating job impersonating their characters, making the film a moving experience.