Release Date: January 29th, 2013 (South Korea)
Running Time: 120 mins.
Director: Ryoo Seung-Wan
Writer: Ryoo Seung-Wan
Starring: Ha Jung-Woo, Gianna Jun, Han Suk-Kyu, Ryoo Seung-Bum, Lee Kyoung-Young
I love spy films as my reviews of Skyfall, and Salt reveal. I also liked the Korean spy thriller Shiri. When the chance to see The Berlin File at the Terracotta Far East Film Festival came up I leapt for it.
The film opens stylishly with grainy footage and rapid cutting of espionage activities such as the creation of fake passports, code breaking and physical violence. It all begins to focus on a menacing man walking down grim streets and into his apartment where he self-administers medication. He is Pyo Jong-Sung (Ha Jung-Woo), the number one North Korean agent in the service and known as “the Hero of the Republic”.
Three hours ago he was at the Grand Westin Hotel with a Russian arms broker and a terrorist from the Independent Arab League. The meeting is being monitored by South Korean NIS agents led by veteran spy Jung Jin-Soo (Han Suk-Kyu). Just as the transaction is about to go ahead Mossad agents burst in and a gunfight ensues. Amidst all of the chaos Pyo Jong-Sung attempts to escape the hotel but Jung Jin-Soo pursues him and the two fight on the hotel roof. Jung Jin-Soo loses his prey but this just increases his determination to take him out even if his bosses are losing confidence in him.
Blowing the operation would be bad enough for Pyo Jong-Sung but when he learns that Dong Myung-Soo (Ryoo Seung-Bum), a rival from home, has been sent by Pyongyang to Berlin in order to investigate the possibility of a defector working at the North Korean embassy he finds himself in a deadly situation that threatens to drag his wife Ryun Jung-Hee (Gianna Jun), an embassy translator, into harm’s way. His loyalty as a husband and spy are tested to the extreme as a series of betrayals and defections unfold and the NIS, CIA and North Korean spy agencies tussle over Pyo Jong-Sung and his wife who are trying to flee Berlin.