Korean Film Festival – Cold Eyes – Review ★★★★

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Part of the 9th Korean Film Festival, Cold Eyes is directed by Ui-seok Jo and Byung-seo Kim, but it’s probably best know for starring Korean heart-throb Jung Woo-sung as the villain, a most unusual part for the usual romantic lead. As for the festival screening, we were also treated to his short films, The Killer Behind, The Old Man and to his Asian movie-star presence, to the delight of all hormonal Korean (and others) fans in the audience.

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Cold Eyes, based in the 2007 Hong Kong thriller Eye in the Sky, is the story of Ha Yoon-ju (Han Hyo-Joo), a young girl with an excellent visual memory, that as the film starts is being recruited to a secret spy ring that helps control city crime. Upon being hired under the code-name Piglet, she helps “Falcon” Hwang Sang-jun (Kyung-gu Sol) and the rest of the “Zoo” to capture a mysterious and extremely efficient group of criminals that appear not to leave anything to chance. The shadow behind it all, James (Jung Woo-sung) is a cold-hearted killer that can predict the spies’ next movement, and it will take all of Piglet’s skill (and a bit of luck) to stop him.

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The thing with Korean cinema, or at least with the films that get to the Western audiences, is that they are just so good. Cold Eyes is an action film with excellent fight sequences, some disgusting gore, moments of humour and believable characters. Piglet’s dilemma and resistance to be a mere observer (never blow up your cover!) is relatable (though 98% of us aren’t in spy rings), and so is her eagerness to impress in the new job. Han Hyo-joo has been acclaimed by her performance in the film, and has bagged Best Actress at the Blue Dragon Film Awards – she manages to be the perfect combination of a delicate, sensible young girl with the kick-ass, cold blood policewoman. In sum, the perfect spy and the perfect actress for the part.

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Add a cinematography that makes us wonder why can’t western blockbusters be this pretty; a rhythm that leaves us wanting more; great performances all around; and a Sudoku code system (so that’s what they’re for!) – you don’t need to be an asian film buff to greatly enjoy Cold Eyes, you just have to be willing to deal with the subtitles (or learn Korean, whichever you find easiest).

And if you always wanted to be a spy, by all means, find a way to see it as soon as possible. Damn, Sudoku encryption…

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.