11 June 2020

K Movie Review: The Man Standing Next (2020) 4.7 || 4.5

I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but Oppa's been lured into my K drama addiction. He appears to be more hooked than I am. I guess I should not complain. I should just treat this as his lesson on how to be a sweet oppa. I swear, when my son grows older and he starts getting curious about love and relationships, I will make him watch at least one K drama and tell him how the lead actor should be his peg as a boyfriend. For now, it's Something in the Rain's Jun-hui for me. Let's see if any other oppa can top that. :D

Apologies for digressing. Anyway, the other day, Oppa was excited about finding a recent Korean movie about the assassination of the South's president in 1979. It was perfect for his K drama addiction and his love for historical stuff. 

While we were having breakfast on Father's Day, he got his laptop and casually asked if I wanted to watch the film. We watched it although we had to stop several times because we had  6-year old boy to attend to. We finally finished watching it after lunch. :D


Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/0b/The_Man_Standing_Next_movie_poster%2C_Jan_2020.jpg

This movie released in January 2020 is about the final 40 days leading into the assassination of South Korean President Park (Lee Seung-min) in October 1979. It was like a race to find out who would get killed first between President Park and his Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) director Kim Gyu-pyeong (Lee Byung-hun). Director Kim was believed to be second in command and a possible successor of President Park. 

Trouble ensued when a former KCIA director Park Yong-gak (Kwak Do-won) testified before the US Congress which led to the Koreagate investigation. President Park gave vague instructions to Director Kim about eliminating this former KCIA director. 

When Director Kim met with Yong-gak, the latter warned him that the President could easily eliminate him too. Yong-gak also said that there was another person outside the KCIA that the President trusted. This got Director Kim thinking. 

Director Kim started to resist when he began to disagree with President Kim on how to deal with the protests in Busan and Masan. The President wanted a more violent approach, while Kim advocated for a more peaceful and democratic solution. 

After Director Kim successfully found and killed the former KCIA director, the President started to distance himself from Director Kim . 

Tipping point for Director Kim was when he heard the President giving orders to eliminate him. He acted faster and he assassinated the President during a private dinner at the Blue House (Korea's version of the White House). 

Epilogue notes reveal that Director Kim was eventually arrested and sentenced to death by hanging. 


I'm not splitting this part between what I liked and didn't like because over all, I think the film was good. The actors who played Director Kim and President Park have won some acting awards for this movie. 

The actors were all good. For the relevant characters, you can see that they really looked like sleazy and corrupt politicians who won't hesitate to kill anyone who got in their way. They were all very credible. 

The film also successfully recreated a set that would transport you back to the '70s. 

I'm not sure how faithful the movie was to the real story. Although they did show a disclaimer at the beginning about how they also used their artistic license. In any case, the movie presented the story in an exciting and interesting manner that even a viewer who is not into history would appreciate it. I mean, we started watching it unplanned on a lazy Sunday morning and we managed to finish it within the day despite numerous interruptions and distractions. So, yep, we were hooked. 

Oppa and I noticed that the personal lives of the characters were not shown on the film. Didn't they have families? Kids? I also hoped they showed some protests other than the aerial shots provided. I understand there were time constraints but it would have been nice to see these things too. 

I was also quite disappointed with Director Kim. He didn't seem to have a plan on how to proceed after he assassinated President Park. He was even unsure of whether he should go to the KCIA office or the army headquarters. If this really happened in real life, then Director Kim wasted his time by doing something so bold without having anything concrete to do later on. 

The movie made it appear that Director Kim killed the President because he wanted Korea to be a democratic state again and he felt that it was impossible with a dictator like President Park. However, Oppa also read stories saying that Director Kim did not want to be eased out of the KCIA that's why he killed the President. We don't know for sure what Director Kim's intentions really were. If he really cared about Korea, then it didn't make sense that he had the former KCIA director killed. It also didn't help that the Americans seemed to be greatly involved in Korean affairs at that time. Pressure from the US could have also contributed to Director Kim's decision. But then again, these things are beyond the film's control. 

So yep, it was a good film. It was an interesting way of presenting history, especially to people like me who are clueless about it. If you enjoyed Argo, then chances are you'll like this one too. :)

Oppa says...4.7.

Noona says...4.5.