“Born as a wild dog, raised like a monster, infiltrate as an idiot.” Those were the taglines that can aptly summarized Kim Soo-Hyun’s character in Secretly, Greatly (also known as Secretly and Greatly, or 은밀하게 위대하게). Based on a serialized 2010 webcomics by Hun under the same name, though more commonly known as Covertness (i think the hangul can be loosely translated to ‘covertness, greatness’ as well) and you can access them on Daum for free except for the last 10 chapters or so (if you read korean hangul).
Started in a dark ominous landscape with dramatic snow falls, the film started out with an intense vibe. A North Korean agent, Won Ryoo-han (Kim Soo-Hyun) is a part of an elite 5446 force. He must infiltrate South Korea and remain there as an undercover agent. The comedic vibe became more palpable as Ryoo-han pose as the village idiot , Dong-gu, in a rural town. He wore green jerseys and have rules to ensure his cover, one that include having constant snots hanging from his nose, falling down the stairs, and defecating in public spaces. After two years without any updates for mission, another elite spies arrived in the village. One posing as a musician whose rock-star aspiration showed more on his looks than his skills, Lee Hae-rang (Park Ki-woong). The other is his young disciple Lee Hae-jin (Lee Hyeon-woo), posing as a quite and shy high school student. As the three found a rhythm in their peaceful life in the enemy land, an order for an urgent final mission must be fulfilled, only know they are not so sure if they will be able to follow through.
I am really on the fence on this film, it is funny and enjoyable during the first two acts but as it geared towards the more dramatic climax it felt rather flat, flimsy, and forced. The film is surprisingly neutral given the political content as it raises the idea of reunification of the two countries. I think this was one of my first hurdle with the film. What could be the source of tension seemed so underplayed and the context was vague. I still do not understand the urgency nor the logic behind the mission the three cast must took either. It leads to an end has a potential to be a touching drama that a bleak, gritty conclusion. But the film makers seems to sacrifice this by not finding the balance between the comedy and the supposed tension, making it seemed rather disjointed at times. I feel like i am watching two very different films instead. The action sequences feels very old school bruce lee flicks with its loud bone-snapping, gut punching sounds that are almost comical. The casts jumped from one rooftops to the next, parkour-ing obstacles just seems for show, and remind me of the chase scene in Johnny English: Reborn instead.
The film tried to engage the audience through multiple emotional triggers: family, acceptance, finding your ii basho, etcetera. But it lacks the conviction it needed and it lacks the strength of character that the audience need to be able to connect with. I really do enjoyed the fluffy earlier acts that are more comedic than the later. Lets be real, the cast of the film alone is obviously geared towards the young female demographic, as proven by these pretty faces above. Maybe that is the secret behind the film success in becoming the 4th highest grossing film of 2013 in South Korean with more than 6 million viewers within 19 days, just behind Iron Man 3, The Berlin File, and Miracle in Cell No.7.
I actually watched the film because N said to me that i must witness the natural beauty of Kim Soo-hyun XD. And of course the not-so-subtle slash content between Soo-hyun and Hyeon-woo. So i enjoyed the film despite the confused genre and think it was quite entertaining anyway. the eyecandies don’t hurt either.
Secretly, Greatly is currently playing at Blitzmegaplex and still screening until Sept 24th.
Secretly, Greatly (2013)
GENRE Comedy, Action
DIRECTOR Jang Cheol-soo | PRODUCER Kim Yeoung-min | WRITER Yun Hong-gi, Kim Bang-hyeon | MUSIC Jang Young-gyu, Dalparan | CINEMATOGRAPHER Chloe Sang-ho | EDITOR Kim Sun-min | DISTRIBUTOR Showbox | COUNTRY South Korea | RUNNING TIME 123 minute | RELEASE June 5, 2013 (South Korean)
STARRING Kim Soo-hyun, Park Ki-woong, Lee Hyun-woo