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The Spy: Undercover Operation ("Seupai")

Canadian Premiere
  • South Korea
  • 2013
  • 121 mins
  • DCP
  • Korean
  • English (subtitles)
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“A spectacularly colourful adventure… wildly entertaining” – Ken Eisner, GEORGIA STRAIGHT

“Satisfying, old-fashioned action scenes… a real screwball comedy feeling” – Miriam Bale, NEW YORK TIMES

Kim Chul-soo is an elite secret agent for the South Korean government, shuttling around the globe on dangerous covert missions. His four basic rules of negotiation: never avoid eye contact, never show your emotions, never say “no”, and, when all else fails — use physical force. A master of international intrigue and close-quarter combat, Chul-soo isn’t quite so skilled in matters of domestic politics. His wife Young-hee, unaware of his actual occupation, berates him for neglecting her, and their failure to have children (could it be our daring hero has been shooting blanks in that department?). But as a flight attendant, she’s a bit of a jetsetter herself, and it seems like she might be up to some clandestine activity too. On a flight to Thailand, she crosses paths with Ryan, a handsome Westerner with a bright smile, a real Mr. Perfect. Could her layover in Bangkok lead to a tryst? Thing is, Chul-soo’s in Thailand too, seeking to spirit away a high-value defector with secrets that could prevent a major global crisis — and he and his ace team aren’t the only ones after her. As the unsuspecting Young-hee is lured into a nefarious plot, Chul-soo finds himself multitasking — keep a second Korean War from breaking out, and his marriage from breaking apart!

The plot recalls TRUE LIES, but the style of the Korean action-comedy THE SPY is drawn from cloak-and-dagger classics like the Bond series, GET SMART and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — right down to percussive musical score. Equal parts zany rom-com and intense thriller — often at the same, very inconvenient moments! — THE SPY makes both sides work wonderfully, summoning goosebumps and guffaws in equal measure. Moon So-ri (A LITTLE POND) is sassy yet sympathetic as the histrionic Young-hee, and scene-stealer Go Chang-seok (also in THE HUNTRESSES at Fantasia this year) charms as Chul-soo’s chubby, exasperated handler. But it’s Sol Kyung-gu who most surprises — the grim, no-nonsense persona he has perfected through turns in SILMIDO and the PUBLIC ENEMY movies (and again in COLD EYES, at the fest as well), is turned on its head here as Sol reveals an unexpected knack for physical comedy and droll repartee. Our top-secret, coded communiqué to all agents of Fantasia: your mission is to secure a good seat at our screening of this mirthful mash-up of gritty gunplay and goofball gags!

— Rupert Bottenberg