EIFF 2013: The Berlin File
With the hyped-up, swaggering gait of a gunslinger on speed, Korean action supremo Ryoo Seung-wan delivers East meets West double agent intrigue in The Berlin File. He mines both Hong Kong actioners and European spy thrillers to create a high octane chimera of a film. Western trends are reversed and North and South Koreans use our territory as a proxy battlefield for their Melvillesque, trench-coated lone wolf double agents who defy the realism and mundanity of John le Carré’s tinkers and tailors.
Here is a director who seems not to know where the brake pedal is as he continually accelerates his bloody narrative, stretching nerve endings and audience credulity to the limit. But at this speed mistakes are made and with a multi-national cast comes clunky dialogue and unsure encounters. Those familiar with the norms of Korean cinema will delight in this hugely enjoyable piece of filmmaking with expertly choreographed set pieces full of gloss and verve. Retrospectively cold war in tone this provides action more brutal than balletic and the promise of a Bourne-style franchise in the making.