HKIFF Review: The Berlin File 베를린 諜血柏林 (2013) – South Korea

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 4th April 2013

Directed by: Ryu Seung-wan
Starring: Ha Jung-woo, Han Suk-kyu, Ryu Seung-beom, Jeon Ji-hyun

Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013

Also showing as part of 4th Korean Film Festival in Australia KOFFIA 2013 in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in August to September 2013.

Korean Box Office: USD$48,146,202

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“THE BERLIN FILE” suffers from having too much of a plot only to fall into the cauldron of mess and struck within a simple formula by the end of the second half. Essentially it is a film that promises a lot, but delivers very little. Sometimes, film-makers need to realise that it is okay to keep things simple, but if you try to complicate things, at least make it worthwhile. “THE BERLIN FILE” starts off strongly and the complicated storyline even manages to hook onto the audience, but when everything that happened turns out for no reason whatsoever, the film flatters and became a cliché hostage situation. Like Hong Kong’s overrated “COLD WAR”, both contains excellent premises, and fail to last the distance and taking it all the way to the finale. This is a disappointing film, but certainly not terrible.

Ha Jung-woo (“LOVE FICTION”) is an adequate lead, but lacks the screen presence to carry a blockbuster spy espionage. He is constantly out shined by the always convincing Jeon Ji-hyun, which is a shame as the role requires more than just being intense and physically build. On the other hand, Ryu Seung-beom flairs the best as the key villain as his versatility can be seen right from the get go. Despite his character is largely a mystery, he is able to portray a more than efficient and dimension villain convincingly. Han Suk-kyu (“WHITE NIGHT”) does well in the final stages, but does not have the required screen time to immerse himself into the audience.

All in all, “THE BERLIN FILE” is clearly a blockbuster of a film with crisp production value, top notch cast and an international Berlin setting. All these elements add to what could have been a great spy espionage with some crucial and relevant north and south Korean political undertones. Instead, what we get is something we have all seen before. By the time the supposedly tense finale hit upon us, we no longer cares for the characters. “THE BERLIN FILE” is clearly not a bad film, but it could easily be a hell lot better. (Neo 2013, Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013)

I rated it 6/10

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