TIFF16: The Age of Shadows

A police officer in Japan-occupied Korea secretly begins to work with the resistance movement he is supposed to bring down in The Age of Shadows. Lee Jung-chool (Song Kang ho) is a Korean captain for the Japanese Police in 1920s occupied Korea. Lee and his partner Hashimoto (Um Tae-Goo) are tasked with bringing down the resistance movement seeking Korean independence. However, after befriending the resistance’s second-in-command Kim Woo-jin (Gong Yoo), Lee begins to feel sympathy for the movement and begins to secretly assist the resistance, all while he is supposed to be hunting them down.

From acclaimed Korean filmmaker Kim Jee-woon (The Good, the Bad, the WeirdI Saw the Devil) comes this historical crime thriller about a police officer working for the Japanese, who secretly switches sides and begins working with the resistance he is supposed to help bring down. Featuring a large cast of characters, it can be a bit difficult to keep track who’s who and on which side. However, the core relationship of the film is the growing friendship between Lee Jung-chool and Kim Woo-jin, despite the fact that both are supposed to be on opposite sides.

With The Age of Shadows, Kim Jee-woon takes a page out of Korea’s dark history and creates a pretty decent crime thriller, which includes some elements of an espionage film. Even though it takes a while to figure out where all the major players stand, The Age of Shadows is quite well constructed, particularly a lengthy set-piece aboard a train. It should be noted that there are some torture scenes late in the film, which can be quite hard to watch, however it’s not enough to dissuade me from recommending The Age of Shadows.

8 / 10 stars

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).