Several impressive action scenes sustain the tension and electrify this overlong, often hard-to-follow story.
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The first half of Age of Shadows feels muddy as momentum builds; the latter stages boast a cinetic energy - cutting a violent melee to classical music (in this case Ravel’s Bolero), may be a tribute to John Woo, but it’s stunning nonetheless.
Like "I Saw The Devil," The Age Of Shadows is a cat-and-mouse scenario that thwarts and subverts audience expectations.
If anything, the film is most indebted to classic cloak-and-dagger movies, in which sharp, richly succinct dialogue and plenty of atmosphere seem effortlessly carried along by the force of magnetic personalities.
The Age of Shadows has no pretensions to being a particularly deep or politically resonant piece of filmmaking. Its more that Kim Jee-woon has found in this era and this milieu the perfect inspiration for a blisteringly entertaining and exquisite genre exercise, one that may not be recognised as such only because we we have never expected genre films to be this good.
The Age of Shadows is a bloody and breathtaking piece of filmmaking which confirms that Kim can do pretty much anything.
Nothing in this gratifyingly focused movie feels excessive or gratuitous, and a situation that repeatedly threatens to spiral out of control is dramatized with the utmost assurance.
The Age of Shadows might tempt another filmmaker to dwell on issues or delve deeper into its characters’ hearts. Yet, for this director, exposition can’t hold a candle to elegantly staged shootouts. And who can blame him. He knows his strengths.
The movie’s visual panache and fog-of-war ambiguity are as universal as the desire to detonate TNT under your enemy’s headquarters.
How Kim and his formidable technical team compose, frame and edit what could have been the most ordinary of shootouts to instantly, violently communicate peril shows not just unmistakable filmmaking prowess but a delightful, connoisseuristic appreciation of the game.