ชื่อภาพยนตร์ : The Man Standing Next (Namsanui bujangdeul) ดาบสองคมของคนข้างตัว
แนว/ประเภท : Drama, History, Thriller
ผู้กำกับภาพยนตร์ : Min-ho Woo
บทภาพยนตร์ : Ji-min Lee, Min-ho Woo
นักแสดง : Lee Byung-Hun, Sung-min Lee, Do-won Kwak
วันที่ออกฉาย : 22 January 2020
ในปี 1970 เกาหลีอยู่ภายใต้การควบคุมอย่างเต็มที่ของประธานาธิบดีปาร์คผู้ควบคุม KCIA องค์กรด้วยความได้เปรียบเหนือทุกสาขาของรัฐบาล
IMDB : tt11358398
คะแนน : 7
รับชม : 4698 ครั้ง
เล่น : 1350 ครั้ง
The assassination of President Park Chung-hee back in October, 1979 by his right-hand man Kim Jae-gyu, the director of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), is among the darkest, most controversial and shocking events in modern South Korean history. While they have previously been depicted in Im Sang-soo’s “The President’s Last Bang”, that film looked at the final three hours before the assassination and its immediate aftermath. Director Min-ho Woo, however, depicts 40 days leading up to the shocking moment to give us an insight into the mind of the perpetrator and hopefully provide both sides of the story with the attempt.
President Park’s confidant and right-hand man Kim Kyu-pyeong (name changed from the real-life Kim Jae-gyu), the director of KCIA, is a man of divided loyalties. Where on one hand he would lay his life on his President’s word, having served side-by-side with the man in the military coup that brought him into power eighteen years ago, on the other he has been asked to deal with silencing Park Yong-gak, his predecessor on the job and a good friend, who has testified against the President in front of the U.S. Senate and is about to lay bare the bitter truths of the President’s military regime in a tell-all book. As he attempts to talk Park out of publishing his manuscript with the help of lobbyist Deborah Shim, Kim learns of a mystery individual known as Iago, who exclusively does the bidding of the President, tasks that would have otherwise fallen into Kim’s responsibilities as the Director of the KCIA and the President’s confidante. This is especially distressing to Kim, who starts questioning just how much the President is keeping from him, particularly since he also wrestles on another front with Gwak Sang-cheon, the President’s Chief of Security, who is increasingly gaining the President’s ear when the war-monger clearly should not be anywhere near it.
Lee Ji-min and Woo Min-ho’s script is an adaptation of the non-fiction novel “Chiefs of Namsan” but as an intertitle mentions in the beginning, certain liberties have been taken for cinematic reasons. This results in a highly engrossing screenplay that’s seeped in historical authenticity while also being entertaining cinematically. Right throughout the film, there is an atmosphere of heightened tension, intrigue, paranoia and conspiracy that does not let go until the explosive finale. Political thrillers usually tend to be dialogue-heavy and that is the case with “The Man Standing Next” as well, which could potentially put off some viewers. But the script is, for the most part, fast-paced and, complimented with the editing, keeps the viewers gripped. Politics is one dirty game and not one person ever has their hands truly clean is also a point driven home well.
Kim’s tragedy – to still follow blindly the man he has trusted and served along with all these years or to be the cause for the change he knows the country so badly needs – is almost Shakespearean in nature. The Shakespeare connection is further strengthened with the use of the name Iago and the shameless namedrop of “Othello”, also a story about power and jealousy. The true reason for the real-life Kim’s drastic act will probably never be known and the film exploits this ambiguity to its benefit. The fact that Kim, despite having the country’s best interests at heart, is a flawed character works massively in the film’s favour. Yes, he wants political change and knows that the President is no longer capable to rule further and the men around him even less so, but it is still the slightly selfish nagging doubt that he is falling down the pecking order with the President, who doesn’t blindly trust his man as he used to, that leads him to commit what in most of the nation’s eyes would surmount to treason.
But the biggest reason the character works so well is the tremendous performance by Lee Byung-Hun. In a career highlighted by some fantastic performances, “The Man Standing Next”, his second collaboration with Woo Min-ho after the excellent “Inside Men”, is right up there among his finest works. Take the scene where he suppresses his anger after the President hits him in the face with a magazine, for example; the energy is almost palpable. Most of the scenes he shares with Sung-min Lee, who plays President Park, are highlights of the film, but the biggest set piece is the fateful dinner party in the climax. The intensity that both the actors bring to the table is absolutely electric and among the best acting you’ll see this year. Lee Sung-min adds another title in the fine cinematic legacy he is creating for himself, with this being up there with “The Spy Gone North” in his best works. Lee Hee-joon’s Gwak Sang-cheon is supposed to be a despicable person and the actor, otherwise playing likeable characters, is utterly repulsive here, which is a compliment considering the role. Everything from his gait, his laugh, his gaze to his pursed lips makes you want to knock his lights out. Both Do-won Kwak as Park Yong-gak and Kim So-jin as Deborah Shim are effective, but feel underused, the latter even more so.
The cinematography captures the look of the era well. There are some beautiful shots throughout the film, like the one at Lincoln Memorial, for example, or the slow motion shot of Park Yong-gak running through a forest. For a country with such advance cinematic practises as South Korea, I have often wondered why the filmmakers there don’t indulge in many long-takes, but “The Man Standing Next” doesn’t disappoint in this regard. Right after the climactic dinner, there is this wonderful one-take tracking shot that leaves a big impression, with Lee Byung-hun’s performance during it only elevating it further. Special mention also goes to the costumes designing which recalls the period successfully. The music has a thrilling blockbuster feel to it and is an effective companion throughout.
“The Man Standing Next” is a terrific film, a fine return to form for director Woo Min-ho after the stink-bomb that was “The Drug King”. It features two superstar actors bringing their A-game to a production that has a very engrossing script accompanied by strong technical merits. The film is a triumph both as an entertaining political thriller and a history lesson and is an early entry into my personal year-end “Best of” lists. Be sure to check this out.
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