Posts Tagged ‘Lee Byung-Hun’

IRIS: THE MOVIE a.k.a. IRIS – THE LAST [AHIRISEU | 아이리스 : 더 무비 | 아이리스 – 극장판]


KOREA 2010  Directed by: Yang Yun-Ho, Kim Kyu-Tae Produced by: Taewon Chung Cast: Lee Byung-Hun, Kim Tae-Hee, Jeong Jun-Ho, Kim Seung-Woo, Kim So-Yeon, T.O.P.

PREFACE: saying IRIS: THE MOVIE was a good or a bad movie in principle is impossible. The feature film following the successful KBS TV Series is essentially a re-edit of the 20 preceding episodes, plus additional unseen footage that is supposed to enhance the storyline, deepen certain aspects of the drama and answer some of the open questions. Meaning, not much of IRIS: THE MOVIE is genuine, entirely new or surprising to those who have watched the series before. Quite the opposite.

THE TV SERIES: IRIS the television drama is most certainly one of the best shows coming out of Korea so far, and it’s a great show by any standard. However, we shouldn’t be kidding ourselves and believe that IRIS is reinventing the wheel: IRIS is a carbon copy of 24, with Lee Byung-Hun reprising the role of Kiefer Sutherland. Along the way the plot, storyline, characters and dramaturgy are purely 24, the NSS agency, the terrorist attacks, the assassinations, the betrayals, the government involvement, the secret organization, all the way down to many of the details that are 24 by the book (like, oops, wrong warehouse, or “give me that friggin’ code NOW”).

Furthermore, the television drama may be a very good adaptation of 24, but it simply lacks its cinematic aesthetics. The HD video look is irritating and drags down the overall quality, making it anything but fit for the silver screen. Consequently, it has been mostly aired on IPTV / cable TV channels so far, but Japanese audiences will have to brace themselves for that odd video look when the film hits cinemas in January. IRIS had a very big budget by Korean standards, but they forgot to invest it into 35mm film. Too bad: if there’s one distinct quality trademark it’s celluloid.

THE MOVIE: now the big question is who exactly is the target audience for this mashup of a movie? Any which way I look at it IRIS: THE MOVIE fails. That is because re-editing 20 episodes into a single film results in an incomprehensible mess. IRIS: THE MOVIE is free of any character development (let alone introduction), it randomly jumps in and out of scenes, nothing is sufficiently explained or integrated into the larger context. The whole movie feels like a very, very long trailer. Right. A trailer. That’s what it is. A two-hour long trailer, a never-ending best-of compilation. If you haven’t seen the series you’ll be repeating one sentence from beginning to end: what the heck is going on?

Die-hard fans of the series will of course disagree and say that IRIS: THE MOVIE is grrrrrreat, but that’s because they have seen the twenty episodes before, and what the movie does is that it triggers sweet memories. So that’s self-deception. Without those memories, it simply doesn’t work: IRIS: THE MOVIE is an executive summary not worth watching. It’s rushed, incomplete and dissatisfying, most of all it doesn’t substitute watching the series.

CONCLUSION: if you are interested in the series, avoid IRIS: THE MOVIE at all costs. It doesn’t do any good, in fact, it will seriously spoil the TV drama experience. And if you are not planning to watch the series, still there aren’t any good reasons to waste your time with IRIS: THE MOVIE as it simply isn’t a movie in the first place.





UPDATE: READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE! – – – – – – – – – – – Personally I can hardly wait for I SAW THE DEVIL, the next Kim Ji-Woon / Lee Byung-Hun collaboration after A BITTERSWEET LIFE and THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE WEIRD. The movie is equal parts serial killer story (never wrong) and revenge flick (never wrong) and sees Lee Byung-Hun avenging the death of his wife with a twisted game he plays with her killer. Also, the movie was too violent to get a proper approval from the Korea Media Rating Board (never wrong) and had to be cut for the theatrical release (let’s hope for the release of a director’s cut later). Sounds like this might become Korea’s movie of the year.

Also starring are Choi Min-Sik, Jeon Kuk-Hwan, Oh San-Ha, Kim Yun-Seo, Choi Moo-Sung, Kim In-Seo, Cheon Ho-Jin, Kim Kap-Su and Lee Jun-Hyeok.






Hong Kong / France / Ireland 2009   Directed & Written by: Tran Anh Hung Produced by: Fernando Sulichin, Jean Cazes, Jean-Pierre Marois  Cinematography by: Juan Ruiz Anchia  Editing: Mario Battistel   Music: Gustavo Santaolalla, Radiohead Cast: Josh Hartnett, Elias Koteas, Lee Byung-Hun, Takuya Kimura, Shawn Yue, Tran Nu Yen Khe, Sam Lee

Also for his latest work Tran Anh Hung sticks to his formula and delivers another exercise in style over substance filmmaking. If you know his earlier works you’ll be surprised though that I COME WITH THE RAIN features a more solid storyline, reshuffled via editing into non-linear order: ex-cop Kline (Josh Hartnett) is hired by the head of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical company to find his son Shitao. Shitao was last seen somewhere in the Filipino jungle raising money for an orphanage. Once Kline arrives to investigate it turns out that Shitao obviously has been shot while asking or donations. However, soon after that someone reports him showing up in Hong Kong, and as Kline follows his trail the story gets more and more mysterious, if not delirious.

From its weird opening I COME WITH THE RAIN makes it instantly clear that this is art house terrain and we better leave the popcorn at home: I COME WITH THE RAIN can only be considered entertaining if you enjoy the bizarre and obscure and indulge in extreme violence as well as extreme vagueness. As I said before the movie features what I consider Tran Anh Hung’s probably most conventional storyline – by his standards that is. Of course the story unfolds in a non-conventional manner thanks to editing, but once the movie’s over we can put all the pieces together easily.

The problem is that even then it seems several pieces are missing, but very typically for Tran Anh Hung he intends to leave many things unspoken: the audience will have to decide how far they are willing to follow his train of thought and how capable they are to follow it in the first place. Of course we all appreciate movies that leave room for imagination and reflection, and I COME WITH THE RAIN leaves plenty of room. Some of the relationships between characters are hard to grasp though and ultimately you will have to buy the main plot point as otherwise you’ll be utterly disappointed. Also, you’ll have to accept that there is no conventional ending or satisfying explanation waiting for you. Without giving too much away it must be noted that I COME WITH THE RAIN is not what it seems to be, but beyond its serial killer crime drama surface it essentially is a film about pain and healing, about belief and religion, about the scars life leaves on all of us.

I reckon that style still dominates substance in I COME WITH THE RAIN – it’s another visual delicacy from the master. The movie is very watchable for its aesthetics alone, with carefully selected frames, strong colors, sensual lighting and enthralling moments of love and death. On the other hand some scenes are so over the top that acting becomes overacting and instead of holding our breaths we begin to laugh out loud. It happened to me a few times throughout the film that I couldn’t take it seriously anymore. That doesn’t mean that the movie fails, but it’s a rocky road at times and you’ll have to turn a blind eye here and there.

I find it hard to make up my mind about I COME WITH THE RAIN. How can I complain about its gorgeous visuals, original story and great cast (by the way, Josh Hartnett is the better Collin Farrell) in view of so much lackluster productions coming to cinemas every year? How can I complain about Tran Anh Hung taking things to the limit and beyond in view of movies becoming more and more indistinguishable? On the other hand I COME WITH THE RAIN doesn’t really go anywhere and the essential points of the storyline elicit no more than a “so what”? There’s no conclusion in it for us, nothing much to learn, nothing that changes our perspective of things.

Having said that maybe it is true that beauty is only skin-deep after all. I COME WITH THE RAIN is a film by Tran Anh Hung for Tran Anh Hung. I don’t see that it has been created with an audience in mind. So I COME WITH THE RAIN is true art: highly imaginative, symbolic, perfectly crafted and utmost exciting, minus a purpose.