In 1993, former military officer Suk-young Park is recruited as a spy by South Korea's National Intelligence Service, and given the code name "Black Venus". He is then sent to infiltrate a group of high-ranking North Korean officials based in Beijing, with the ultimate goal of acquiring information on the North's nuclear program. After becoming close to Myong-un Ri, a key power broker, Black Venus succeeds beyond his wildest dreams of gaining the trust of North Korea's leadership. But political machinations on both sides of the border threaten to derail his accomplishments.Written by
When Suk-young Park arrives in Pyongyang for the first time and is driven around the city, he goes past the Mansudae Grand Monument which is large statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. At the time this scene is set it only the statue of Kim Il-sung was there. The statue of Kim Jong-il was erected after his death. See more »
This high quality drama is an edgy political thriller throughout, and directed brilliantly by Yoon Jong-bin. The cinematography, the strong cast, the pace, minimalist score and crafted camera work dovetail beautifully to produce a fictional re-telling of a story largely based on truth. The ideologies of two opposed political systems rooted in sister countries of North and South Korea confront one another through the actions of Kim Jong-il (Leader, General and King of the North) and the National Intelligence Service of the South. The quest of the NIS is to determine by whatever means they can devise whether the North is developing nuclear capability, and how close that may be to full militarization. Itself no simple matter! The answer the Director of the NIS is instructed to follow is: send one of his prized assets, a soldier Park (Hwang Jung-min), first to China in the guise of a greedy businessman to build a network of contacts, then if possible, eventually move on to Pyongyang, and Seoul to get close to and manipulate General Kim. Assessing the nuclear threat is agent Park's foremost priority.
That said, the already apparent complicated plot is made more so by believable lucrative and labyrinthine business dealings that have to be set-up and we follow in real time.
Agent Park, now businessman Park, is under suspicion from the off and continually tested by an ever cautious communist security service chief. Any mistake by Park in his new persona will lead to exposure and imminent death. The tension and austere nature imposed by DPRK security is palpable, and makes very edgy viewing indeed.
However, while Park progresses and begins to infiltrate into the top echelons other complications arise in his home country. The longstanding ruling Party of 50 years faces a general election in which a new opposition Democrat candidate (allegedly a covert communist sympathiser) wants to reaffirm friendships and form closer trade relations with the North. That level of uncertainty (or as seen by some NIS members, a 'threat' that the South dare not tolerate) compels many of the principle protagonists to either switch their allegiances or change their modus operandi, compounding the cinematic intrigue.
In answer to a few Imdb reviewers who suggest that this movie is slow, they could not be more wrong! To enact the largely historically truthful story in all its glorious intricacies any less accurately by going faster, while maintaining such a superb level of entertainment would be nigh on impossible. This movie is acted slickly and make no mistake is superbly directed. The long build-up in the first half seems necessary to make the story intelligible. Without giving away how the story pans out in the latter half, suffice to say, it makes for an enjoyable, entirely satisfactory, time well-spent coherent watch. Director Yoon Jong-bin especially, and others, particularly the scriptwriters, and supporting cast deserve nominations in the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars. This film comes highly recommended.
What could prove limiting to its worldwide box office appeal is that for English-speaking audiences the dialogue requires subtitles, and that usually reduces audience figures. Don't let that put you off. 'The Spy Gone North' (aka Gongjak) merits 10/10.
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