As promised, I’m doing a series of reviews on the different movies lined up for the 2011 Korean Film Festival. First up is the opening movie, “Secret Reunion”, which will have its first official showing in tonight’s press screening.

“Secret Reunion” tells the fascinating story of friendship and antagonism that grows between a former North Korean spy and a former South Korean spy. The story begins when the rookie North Korean agent, Song Ji-Won (played by Kang Dong-Won), fails to finish a mission when his emotions get in the way of assassinating the wife and child of a target. Because of this, he is declared a traitor by the North and so he goes on hiding.

Meanwhile, Lee Han-Gyu (played by Song Kang-Ho) is the bumbling South Korean agent supposed to prevent the assassination of Ji-Won’s target. Despite his insider information about the hit, he still fails to prevent it from happening so he is also dismissed from the service.

Years after this incident, Ji-Won and Han-Gyu cross paths once again. Ji-Won is already working a construction worker while Han-Gyu is now a private investigator. Things take a turn for the worst when they realize who the other really is. In what begins as a literal move to “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”, the two shake hands on a partnership for Ji-Won to work in Han-Gyu’s small investigation agency. Secretly, both are after each other’s throat and this tensions eventually escalates from all-out war to a remarkable friendship that doesn’t care whether you’re from the North or South.

What I love about this movie is the development of the characters.I love how their relationship begins with total animosity to mutual respect and then to friendship. This is primarily made possible through the inspired acting of the leads. Kang Dong-Won has always been one of my favorite actors because of the intensity that he brings and here he totally impresses with the way he shows Ji-Won’s progression. Song Kang-Ho is another veteran who I definitely respect and here he totally goes head-to-head with Kang Dong-Won in terms of thespic talents. His Han-Gyu has a natural bumbling charm that makes him lovable instead of just looking totally stupid and incompetent.

Directed by Jang Hoon, this movie is packed with action and tension from start to finish. The camera shots are sharp and well-chosen plus the editing is smooth and fast. There’s never a dull moment in this movie. But what makes this above your usual Hollywood action blockbuster is the very human emotions going on between the main characters.  The transformation of their erstwhile antagonism to each other is simply a delight to watch. Because more than anything else, it is a story about friendship. It powerfully delivers the message that true friends do not care about who you are – even if you are a North Korean spy. No wonder it was one of 2010’s biggest movies in Korea.

Secret Reunion is a must-not-miss in this year’s Korean Film Festival (It’s #2 on my list). It opens the festival on Sept. 19, 7:30pm at SM Mall of Asia Cinema 6. It will also be shown again in the same theater on Sept. 23 at 6:30 pm. The movie will also be screened in SM North EDSA Cinema 3 on Sept. 20 at 6:0pm and on Sept. 24 at 1:40pm. For those watching in Cebu, you can catch it in SM Cebu Cinema 1 on Sept. 29 at 9:30pm and on Oct. 1 at 7:30pm.

Thanks to for the video.

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