One man's personal grievances become the impulse for a cataclysmic terrorist plot in this confusing but action-packed thriller from South Korea. China, 1983: 20 members of a defecting North Korean family arrive at the Australian embassy in Beijing and apply for political asylum in South Korea, but are denied by Seoul officials. En route home, most of the...read more
One man's personal grievances become the impulse for a cataclysmic terrorist plot in this confusing but action-packed thriller from South Korea. China, 1983: 20 members of a defecting North Korean family arrive at the Australian embassy in Beijing and apply for political asylum in South Korea, but are denied by Seoul officials. En route home, most of the family is slaughtered. Twenty years later, a U.S. cargo ship headed to Okinawa is hijacked off the coast of Taiwan by one of the many pirate crews that roam the East China Sea. Everyone on board (including an unusually high number of U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency guards) are killed, and their secret cargo a nuclear missile guidance system, underhandedly developed by the U.S. in violation of a nonproliferation treaty with Russia and China is stolen. Exactly where the equipment was headed and what it was to be used for is of great concern to the South Korean government, but getting it back from whoever has it before an international crisis erupts is more important. South Korean officials tap Navy Lieutenant Kang Se-jong (Lee Jung-jae) for the job, and their choice is a good one: Within days Kang has caught the scent of a dangerous pirate named Choi Myong Sin (Jang Dong-gun) who's been trying to acquire 30 tons of nuclear waste from Russia along with, oddly, a large quantity of liquid helium. Sin has devised a devious plan to murder much of the Korean population North and South in retaliation for what both Koreas did to his family, a plot that hinges on the convergence of two powerful typhoons now barreling toward the Korean peninsula. To catch him, Kang uses the only person who could possibly lure Sin out of hiding: Sin's sister, ailing prostitute Choi Myeong Ju (Lee Mi-yeon), whom Sin hasn't seen since their family met their tragic end in China two decades earlier. Released in the U.S. in a "Director's International Cut" with 20 minutes shorn from the original 123-minute running time, the film's rhythm is oddly off-kilter, and there are gaps in the flow of a story that becomes increasingly hard to follow. Nevertheless, the theme remains intact: As in the Korean blockbuster SHIRI, we find North and South sharing a deep psychic bond, though here this emotionally united Korea faces off against an increasing hostile world, and the chief baddie isn't the crazed regime in power in Pyonyang, but the combined forces of Tokyo, Moscow and Washington. The film itself, however, is fairly typical of other Chinese-influenced South Korean thrillers: The action come fast and thick, and the sentimentality reaches near-operatic proportions.
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