A coup in North Korea forces an agent to defect to South with unconscious "Number One". While operatives from North hunt for both of them, the agent has to work with South Koreans to stop the nuclear war.
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
The back stories to the movie's casting of its cast were as follows as outlined by the film's director Jong-bin Yoon: "Hwang Jung-min was the first actor I thought of for 'Black Venus'. I wanted an actor who did not fit the typical image of a spy, but who could still carry off the rough and straightforward look of a soldier. I needed a face that could not be easily read, but which contained both good and evil within it. So Hwang Jung-min was the one who came to mind. The character of Ri Myong-un is a complicated one, someone whose inner thoughts can never be read, whose actions cannot be predicted. A North Korean who nonetheless projects an intellectual air and sense of humanity. I thought Lee Sung-min was the perfect match for that role. As for Director Choi, he is in charge of all North Korean espionage activities, and I wanted him to give off the air of an officer. Besides, many key figures in the NIS [National Intelligence Service] were originally officers by training. The actor Cho Jin-woong gives off that kind of aura. In particular, I didn't want Director Choi to come across too easily as a malevolent character, and I didn't want to show him using malicious means to hold onto his power. The actor who I felt could best express the inner logic and motivations of this character was Cho Jin-woong. Jong Moo-taek was the last major role to be cast, and in terms of overall balance I thought Ju Jihoon could bring a very distinctive air to that character. In North Korea, which you can think of as a hierarchical class society, this character is someone with privileged origins who rises to a high rank at a young age. I thought Ju Ji-hoon's cool demeanor would be a good match for the role." 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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this