Sunday, January 20, 2019

MAL-MO-E: The Secret Mission / 말모이 - Movie Review

The Movie: MAL-MO-E: The Secret Mission / 말모이

The Director: Eom Yoo-na

The Cast: Yoo Hae-jin, Yoon Kye-sang, Kim Hong-pa, Woo Hyun, Kim Tae-hoon, Kim Sun-young-III, Min Jin-woong, Lee Sung-wook-I, Cho Hyun-chul, Jo Hyun-do, Park Ye-na

The Story: During the Japanese occupation, two men travel across the country compiling the first Korean language dictionary.

The Review:
Historical dramas seem to be a specialty of Korean cinema especially since there is so much to draw from even in just the last 100 years. This story focuses on a group of people who fought diligently to preserve the Korean language during a time when Japan was forcing its dominion and wiping out the country's history altogether.  The overall story is told in broad strokes with jumps in time that sometimes span several years which allows director Eom Yoo-na to focus more on character relationships and the drama that unfolds.

Over the last couple years Yoo Hae-jin has come one of my favorite Korean actors having previously worked on films like A Taxi Driver (also directed by Eom Yoo-na) and Luck-Key both of which ended up on my favorites lists for the years they came out. In this role, he really has a chance to shine as the reluctant and resistant hero and takes full advantage of every moment with a larger than life personality and a genuine nature that is just perfect for the role. The rest of the cast does a fine job with Yoon Kye-sang showing a wide range of abilities as the leader of the Korean Language Society and the young yet very talented Park Ye-na shining as the daughter of Yoo's character.

The one drawback to the movie is how it just feels really small like there could have been a bigger scale to at least some of the proceedings but there was either a lack of budget or, as I mentioned before, a possible desire to solely focus on the characters and the drama. That being said, the cast and crew get the most out of every scene and the whole production is highly effective in dramatizing and documenting a very important piece of the country's more recent history.

The Verdict:
MAL-MO-E: The Secret Mission is a very entertaining historical drama that is highlighted by outstanding performances and a well written, emotionally impactful story. The film works really well as an intimate period piece that is heavy on emotion while shying away from the big budget special effects and epic action set pieces we normally get from these types of movies.

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