Mainstream films about resisting invasion often set a solemn, nationalistic tone, and accordingly, they are generally not that entertaining.
However, South Korean box office hit Assassination offers a welcome alternative. The movie is still a historical epic, and yet it contains all the elements you’d want in a blockbuster: pulse-pounding intrigue, heart-wringing drama, gun fighting and intense action.
This propulsively paced production revolves around a secret mission in 1933, during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. A team of three led by Ahn Okyun (Gianna Jun 全智贤), a lethally adroit sniper from the Korean Independence Army, is designated to assassinate a business tycoon-turned-traitor and a Japanese commander.
Choi Dong-hoon, one of South Korea’s most commercially successful directors, artfully peppers the film with witty lines, entertaining details and comic moments. There’s even a darkly funny scene where the other two group members drop their objections to Ahn’s leadership because they learn that she had been jailed for killing her superior.
Assassination also follows the story of two twin sisters, separated since infancy. They later get mistaken for one another, causing their fates to change. And there’s even a romantic subplot between the female assassin and a suave hitman named Hawaii Pistol – but it’s only touched on in passing.
Though Assassination is a popcorn movie designed to have mass appeal, it focuses on patriotism as its central theme. It encourages viewers to stand up for their nation in times of crisis.
In the film, Ahn finds unlikely allies in her quest. She wins the trust of a cynical weapons dealer and an explosives expert, both of whom were reluctant to help at first. Then there’s Hawaii Pistol, the hitman hired to murder Ahn. He decides instead to join forces with Ahn.
One of the most inspiring moments might be when Ahn is asked what’s the point of risking her own life to fulfill her mission. Even if she succeeds, more Japanese military officers will be sent to Korea, and more quisling businessmen may turn up. Her response is that she simply hopes to demonstrate to the Japanese invaders that Koreans will never give up.
With its patriotic theme, exquisite drama and solid action, Assassination delivers a surefire hit.