7 February 2015 | totalovrdose
Enjoyable - The Berlin File is Worth Watching for its Many Twists and Entertaining Action
The cover of The Berlin File DVD I purchased depicts Jung-woo Ha in the center of a metropolis as explosions take place around him, choppers taking to the air as crippled vehicles block the roads. This particular image does not do the film justice, which is far subtler in its portrayal of spies in alien environments suffering the repercussions of being betrayed.
Rather than providing the viewer with environments tourists would often venture towards (with the exception of a couple attractions), the Berlin File is often set in locations including backstreets, maintenance areas, government buildings, highrises, hotels and the countryside. There are very few flashing, gorgeous attractions because the world of espionage does not take place in the eye of the public, but covertly, and the film generates this feeling perfectly.
Ha plays North Korean ghost Pyo, who, after a weapons deal goes inexplicably wrong, finds himself questioning the loyalties of those around him in an attempt to discover who could have possibly set him up. The list of suspects not only includes the North Korean Ambassador (Lee Geung-young), but Pyo's wife Ryeon (Jeon Ji-hyun), a translator at the North Korean Embassy. The lacking passion in their relationship is well portrayed, with Pyo's love and dedication been firmly placed with his country, unable to realize the strain living in another country is doing to Ryeon.
Initially it proves difficult to ascertain the loyalties of even the most enjoyable characters, the feature efficaciously building a story of suspense and intrigue where nothing is ever as it seems. The situation quickly escalates as South Korean agent Jung (Suk-kyu Han) attempts to find out who was involved in the failed weapons deal, alongside investigations by Mossad and the CIA, all of which begin converging upon Pyo. As the tension mounts, North Korean agent Dong (Seung-beom Ryu), is sent to fix the situation, and offers Pyo a solution. His decision, to accept or refuse the proposal, shapes not only the directionality of the story, but will lead to ramifications even he cannot escape.
Part The Suspect, the Bourne Films and Mission Impossible, The Berlin File is not heavily reliant on explosions, instead providing the audience with a number of excellent close quarter combat scenarios that are as well choreographed as they are entertaining. Unlike in some films where the action is incredibly quick, it is easy to gauge what is transpiring during the confrontations.
Ji-hyun portrays the only lead female in the entire film, originally her screen presence been limited, the story focusing on other events. Although the feature begins to focus more on her as it progresses, and despite there been enough information to understand the history she and her husband share, I would have appreciated the opportunity to see more of her character. Furthermore, with the majority of the film occupied by male cast members, I believe that the few female characters should have had a larger role, with other South Korean spy thrillers, such as Iris, often providing men and women alike an equal presence on screen.
Ha is a great lead to build a film around, his acting, alongside his professionally gifted co-stars, and the achievements of the fights, proving to be an entertaining experience. The final battle will potentially remind people of fights that transpired in the Bourne Identity, Mission Impossible 2 and Flashpoint, and though very enjoyable, occasionally the film could have pushed for far greater originality.
The film's conclusion could provide the assumption that a sequel might possibly bless our screens, however I personally have my doubts. If this is not your first foray into South Korean cinema, then you will know that not all movies from this part of the world end conclusively. Often, this isn't achieved so a pointlessly unnecessary sequel, the kind America often churns out, is created, but so the audience will have something to ponder about after the credits, causing them to think long after about what may hypothetically occur.
Entertaining, intelligent and constantly causing the audience's head to spin with the many twists and turns, The Berlin File blends action together with drama and thrills to create a very enjoyable spy film that emotionally demonstrates the hardships of living a double life.