The Age of Shadows
Kim Jee-woon's vintage spy thriller pulses with precipitous energy
Early on in The Age of Shadows, Kim Woo-jin, a Korean Resistance fighter posing as an antiques dealer, meets the police officer who’s on his tail – Lee Jung-chool, a turncoat Korean working for the colonial Japanese regime. Both recognise what’s happening, but they’re willing to humour the charade. Woo-jin pushes two seemingly identical vases towards Jung-chool and asks with a smirk, “Which is genuine?”
It’s a telling moment in a film full of carefully crafted duplicity and it’s the encounter that launches Jung-chool headlong into the world of deep cover, a place where pragmatic allegiance butts heads with patriotic duty and spies switch sides at the drop of a fake moustache.
After the taper is lit on a firecracker opening set piece, The Age of Shadows barrels through its opaque web of double-deceptions and quadruple-crosses like a steam train – in fact, it’s got one of those too, and it’s laden with explosives. Things run out of puff a little in the struggle to settle on an ending, but it’s an easy indulgence to forgive in a film that’s always reaching for one last trick up its sleeve.
The Age of Shadows screened at Glasgow Film Festival