The Age of Shadows

Kim Jee-woon's vintage spy thriller pulses with precipitous energy

Film Review by Phil Kennedy | 22 Feb 2017
  • The Age of Shadows
Film title: The Age of Shadows
Director: Kim Jee-woon
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Gong Yoo, Han Ji-min
Release date: 24 Mar
Certificate: 15

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

Read more about Glasgow Film Festival in The CineSkinny – in print at Glasgow Film Festival venues and online at