Miljeong follows a trend of Chinese and South Korean period films that chart those countries’ victimisation by the Japanese in the first half of the 20th century. It’s a decent genre flick that should make for a nice companion piece to Park Chan-wook’s similarly themed The Handmaiden.
From the first scene it’s clear that the sound department deserve kudos as the opening gunshot packs a wallop, setting a standard that the rest of the sound design more than meets. The standards for character, though, are much lower, as most of the cast are thin on personality. Only Song Kang-ho of Snowpiercer fame shines as Lee Jung-hool, an ethnically Korean captain of the Japanese police force who finds himself playing both rebel and authoritarian.
The plot, though initially hard to follow, creates opportunities for great setpieces. If Miljeong is to be remembered, it will be for the long-form game of cat and mouse that take place on a train to Seoul. It’s an unbearably tense segment that lasts for a good while, as the filmmaker allows the pressure to build to terrifying levels.
While the action is definitely intense enough to hold your attention throughout, Miljeong begins to groan under the weight of its 140-minute runtime. Suffering from a case of Return of the King syndrome, it becomes tiresome that a few scenes in the final act become increasingly suitable endpoints, only for the story to keep dragging on.
Despite requiring a trimming and boasting poor characterisation, Miljeong is still an enjoyable film thanks to its use of tension and brutal action sequences. The historical setting is an excellent locale for its thriller plot, but Miljeong never quite sustains the highs of its train sequence.
CAST: Kang-ho Song, Yoo Gong, Ji-min Han
DIRECTOR: Jee-woon Kim
WRITER: Jee-woon Kim
SYNOPSIS: A cat-and-mouse game that unfolds between a group of resistance fighters trying to bring in explosives from Shanghai to destroy key Japanese facilities in Seoul, and Japanese agents trying to stop them.