Wednesday, 11 January 2017


Kim Jee Woon is one of cinema's most operatic filmmakers - truly, like opera, it's often rather too much of a good thing, or even just too much of anything, but at least he gives us the good things at all. He turns his nose for noir back to Japanese-occupied Korea in The Age of Shadows, and the period stylings suit him, offering his mannerisms a rich canvas on which to flourish. Bolstered by budget, Kim's technical flair is let on a loose rein, and it's thus that the film both establishes its identity and proves its worth - indeed, the two are entirely symbiotic. The trite, undercooked scenario, though engaging in a most simplistic manner, provides little actual substance for the viewer, instead serving as a conduit for stylistic bravura, of which Kim and his fine crew have plenty. Aside from its general visual attractiveness, The Age of Shadows is constructed around a number of thrilling set-pieces, masterfully designed by this team of technicians. Although a maximalist in essence, Kim understands the precise configurations of how to build suspense and how to stage action; the editing, the sound design, the specific quality of each specific shot, all coalescing into a whole that's wholly fulfilling, and then some in the film's exemplary train sequence midway through. A film whose overall success is knowingly dependent upon the individual success of individual scenes may likely never be anything much overall, and The Age of Shadows fails to match this excellent standards in its downtime - that any film might have space for downtime is concerning in the first instance anyway. But this opera is worth catching for those several superb arias alone, and marks a genuine step forward in the career of its talented writer-director.