Cheol-ryeong (played by Hyun Bin) is a good North Korean officer who plays by the spirit of the rules. That is, until he fails to heed the literal words of commander Gi-seong (played by Kim Joo-hyuk), and ends up stuck in a disastrous firefight. Although that situation was rather preventable. Why is it that the good guys in the movies always give up their guns in a Mexican standoff? I mean yeah it's an obvious cinematic device, but in the real world no one ever does that for some fairly predictable reasons.
Anyway! "Confidential Assignment" is the story of how Cheol-ryeong must travel to South Korea in order to retrieve the macguffin before it is used for evil or something. Gi-seong's nonsensical rants are among the highlights in "Confidential Assignment". He hates communism, loves money, death, and irony (in that order) and will somehow utilize an international criminal gang to liberate the people of North Korea. It's too bad Gi-seong inevitably fails because I'm a little curious what exactly the second step of his plan was going to be.
Alas, director Kim Seong-hoon-III is more interested in genre standards, like how well Cheol-ryeong gets along with South Korean cop Jin-tae (played by Yoo Hae-jin) as they drive from action scene to action scene. The culture clash between Cheol-ryeong and Jin-tae has less to do with nationality as it does background. Cheol-ryeong is a very serious handsome man with a deep dark desire for revenge, and Jin-tae is a flustered homely middle-aged career cop who can never catch a break.
Politics does come up in the form of another incoherent highlight- Jin-tae browbeating Cheol-ryeong over North Korea's poverty and Cheol-ryeong responding with mild annoyance over Jin-tae's repeating obvious propaganda. The political dimensions of "Confidential Assignment" are a lot more interesting than they should be due to the film's inherent optimism. North Korea can do bad things, yet Cheol-ryeong is still loyal to it while also prioritizing his own immediate needs without being murdered for disloyalty. Wow! That sounds like my country!
"Confidential Assignment" is much more a thriller than it is comic relief. And on that front the movie is...passable. I'm willing to go as low as uninspired. The movie isn't really bad so much as it is a connection of various generic setpieces. The two toilet paper scenes stand out less because they looked all that interesting and more because the postscript and prescript about toilet paper was funny, in a kind of "that should not have worked" way.
Whether or not you'll like "Confidential Assignment" depends on which part you're looking at really. While actually watching the movie I was genuinely unimpressed by the formulaic way the action scenes and plot lurched. Yet in retrospect the moments of chemistry between Hyun Bin and Yoo Hae-jin make up for that. While I definitely would have preferred a more creative script "Confidential Assignment" does succeed where it counts by throwing appealing characters into problems and making them come up with solutions.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Confidential Assignment""
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