Gongjak or The Spy Gone North is a spy thriller that looks at the complex political world of North and South Korea and relations during the late 1990’s. It is a mix of history and fiction in telling the story of a South Korean spy agent who goes to North Korea under the guise of a businessman through China in order to infiltrate North Korea in search of information about the nuclear program.
The movie’s biggest strength is in the cinematography portraying the different locales of China, South Korea, and North Korea in its story telling and in the acting pulling in a cast of well established Korean actors. The camera work and soundtrack is also excellent which work together perfectly in creating high tension key points in the story and providing the movie with excellent pacing.
The story is for the most part is more straight forward than what I expected from a spy thriller. It gets more political after the second half of the movie which is expected due to the nature of story between North and South Korea and it adds a level of complexity. What the movie doesn’t do well is explain the motivation that drives the actions of supporting characters. The main character’s actions were easy to understand but it was a little bit frustrating not understanding the driving cause of some of the other key characters.
The movie ends with a clear message that will polarize viewers based on their political standing but it does so in an interesting way through the relationship between characters which does tie up the movie fairly well. My biggest critique of this film is that it’s too predictable for a spy thriller but it does do a great job narrating the journey.
Review by Ginsengjin