Turn off the Lights

The Berlin File Review: A solid South Korean spy thriller.

Ryoo Seung-Wan has consistently delivered action films from his native South Korea that are entertaining and engaging. His latest entry, The Berlin File, released overseas earlier this year, is one of his most ambitious projects to date and manages to elevate his talents, even if its narrative is a tad convoluted. The film stars Ha Jung-Woo, as a North Korean spy, who gets entangled in a web of deception, defection to America, by his own boss. South Korean spies are trying to figure out why his boss is defecting, along with another fellow spy, played by the director's own brother, Ryoo Seung-Bum. What follows is a spy thriller that only mirrors the Borne trilogy in aesthetic, but presents an action film with a great amount of depth and as a new showcase for Ryoo Seung-Wan.   The Berlin File_02   From the films opening scene, The Berlin File presents an incredible display of action, both in hand to hand combat and gunplay. Action choreographer, Jung Doo-Hong, seems as if he's borrowing from the Bourne trilogy, but what helps him set his fight sequences apart is that they're much more elaborate. Another facet that helps these fight scenes are Chung Chung-Hoon's cinematography, which stay fixed at points and don't rely on handheld camera work. The end result are set pieces that feel very much thought out and present more of a spectacle of modern stunt work.   The_Berlin_File_03   The cast of the film is solid and do a fine job at presenting the film's authenticity, as well as its dramatic impact. The strongest actor of the bunch is Ryoo Seung Bum, whose managed to impress me more and more, with each role that he takes on in his career. It's one of the first times that I've seen him play a villain and it seems as if he's relishing the fact that he's playing an antagonist. Much of the great drama that stems from the film, is due to Ha Jung-Woo and the character of his wife, played by actress Gianna Jun. Their relationship has gone under much strain, due to their circumstances and being chess pieces for the North Korean Government. When both actor's are in scenes together, they really work well in order to show both the struggles of being soldiers, as well as trying to maintain their marriage. If there's one major issue of The Berlin File, it would have to be its convoluted plot, which at times bring down the intriguing narrative. Seung-Wan is also the writer of the film and while he manages to make things clear enough to follow, many times a variety of elements are brought in to keep things suspenseful or heighten the drama. While he ends up making up for it a myriad of ways, if the script didn't have as many awkward plot lines running through it, he'd have a perfect spy thriller to add to his filmography.   The Berlin File_01   The DVD from CJ Entertainment comes with an wonderful behind the scenes documentary, that touches on many aspects of the film. To the logistics in shooting in three countries, to the actor's having to change their dialect, in order to reflect on their character's upbringing, the making of The Berlin File is an incredible addition to this disc. It's a rarity that we receive a documentary such as this for a foreign film release, so the fact that CJ Entertainment has included it, makes me extremely happy. If you like a a good spy thriller and great fight choreography, look to The Berlin File, a solid film from a solid filmmaker. 
  • Fantastic Action Sequences
  • Solid Performances
  • Great Cinematography
  • Convoluted Plot Lines


Meet the Author

About / Bio
Ruben Rosario is the head editor of the Movie Department at Entertainment Fuse. He co-hosts The Plot Hole, with Simon Brookfield and has a major love for cinema, comics and anime.

Follow Us