The Berlin File

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The Berlin File
The Berlin File.jpg
Hangul 베를린
Revised Romanization Bereullin
McCune–Reischauer Perŭllin
Directed by Ryoo Seung-wan
Produced by Kang Hye-jung
Written by Ryoo Seung-wan
Starring
Music by Jo Yeong-wook
Cinematography Choi Young-hwan
Edited by Kim Sang-bum
Kim Jae-bum
Distributed by CJ Entertainment
Release date
  • January 31, 2013 (2013-01-31)
Running time
120 minutes
Country South Korea
Language Korean
English
German
Budget US$9 million
Box office US$46.3 million[1]

The Berlin File (Hangul베를린; RRBereullin; lit. "Berlin") is a 2013 South Korean action thriller film written and directed by Ryoo Seung-wan.[2][3][4] Ha Jung-woo stars as a North Korean agent in Berlin who is betrayed and cut loose when a weapons deal is exposed. Together with his wife, a translator at the North Korean embassy in Berlin played by Jun Ji-hyun, they try to escape being purged, with Ryoo Seung-bum and Han Suk-kyu playing North and South Korean operatives on their trail.[5][6][7][8][9]

Plot[edit]

After a tense illegal arms deal in a Berlin hotel involving North Korean spy Pyo Jong-seong (Ha Jung-woo), a Russian broker, and a Middle Eastern terrorist goes wrong when disrupted by unknown assailants, Pyo narrowly escapes but encounters morass of conflicting evidence that may reveal why he was set up.

Also investigating the failed weapons sale, embattled South Korean intelligence agent Jung Jin-soo (Han Suk-kyu) goes after Pyo to uncover his identity, but is left trying to decode whether the North Korean "ghost" agent (whose information cannot be found on any intelligence database) is a double agent or taking the fall for a more insidious plot. Finding himself embroiled in a vast international conspiracy, Jung must determine the North's role in the deal, as well as the potential involvement of the American CIA, Israel's Mossad, international terrorist organizations, and any other covert operatives lurking in Berlin's polyglot underworld.

Confronting the possibility of a double agent within Berlin's North Korean embassy where his wife Ryun Jung-hee (Jun Ji-hyun) is a translator, Pyo discovers that Pyongyang security authorities have dispatched ruthless fixer Dong Myung-soo (Ryoo Seung-bum) to sort out potentially conflicting loyalties at the consulate. Dong's investigation quickly implicates Ryun and he gives Pyo just 48 hours to incriminate his wife, who is suspected of leaking information on the arms deal to South Korean agents trying to gain access to a secret multibillion-dollar bank account controlled by Pyongyang authorities.

Despite an apparently loveless marriage, Pyo is reluctant to betray Ryun, particularly after she discloses she's pregnant. He senses that she was set up by Dong and his father to gain favor with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. But when the North Korean ambassador makes an attempt to defect to the West, Pyo becomes incriminated as well. Narrowly escaping an assassination squad dispatched by Dong, Ryun and Pyo go on the run, with the rival Korean intelligence agencies closing in fast.

Pyo winds up falling into the path of Agent Jung, and the two create a reluctant alliance to rescue Ryun after she was kidnapped following an attack by Dong and his affiliates. The conflict escalates and both Dong and Pyo face each other in an ultimate showdown that culminates in Pyo killing Dong with an injection. Unfortunately, his wife Ryun gets caught in the crossfire and dies from her wound.

Jung reports to headquarters, where he learns that Dong's father has covered up the scandal using Pyo as a scapegoat. Jung, although frustrated at the internal corruption, has his hands tied. He meets with Pyo and cautions him to go into hiding and live the rest of his life "looking over [his] shoulder", as both the North and South Korean forces governments him a traitor and fugitive. In the last scene, Pyo can be seen inside an airport at an unspecified time later, having called Dong's father to tell him that he's coming. Pyo books a ticket to Vladivostok, the site of a new gas pipeline deal between North and South Korea.[10][11][12]

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

While preparing for the film, director Ryoo Seung-wan met with several North Korean defectors and shot the documentary Spies for Korean broadcaster MBC as part of a special series that aired in 2011, intending "to make a realistic, fast-paced, Korean-style espionage action film about South Korean agents discovering North Korea's secret accounts and how political dynamics between the two Koreas get involved." Ryoo said he wanted the film to be reminiscent of The Bourne Identity, and on an emotional level, to focus on the solitude and sorrow of those who live as secret agents.[24]

Budgeted at US$9 million, the film was produced by Ryoo's own production shingle Filmmakers R&K, and financed by CJ Entertainment. Seasonal aspects play an important part in the film; Ryoo shot the film almost 100% on location in Europe.[24] Filming began on April 16, 2012 on a film set in Namyang, south of Seoul, in Gyeonggi Province.[25] After wrapping there, cast and crew relocated to Berlin, Germany and Riga, Latvia in early May 2012, and among the locations were the roof of Berlin's Westin Grand Hotel, in Schöneberg, at the Hackescher Markt, and on Pariser Platz in front of the iconic Brandenburg Gate in full view of the American and French Embassies. The shoot involved a 15-person German crew from Film Base Berlin, but the majority of production elements and talent were Korean, including around 80 crew members who brought their entire equipment. Observing that Ryoo did the recces of the locations with the actors so that they could get used to the settings, Film Base boss Mathias Schwerbock described the director as "very thorough and precise in his preparations. They are fast at shooting and very efficient."[26][27]

Stunt coordinator Jung Doo-hong choreographed the film's action sequences.[28]

With over 40% of the film in English, American screenwriter Ted Geoghegan was hired to construct and polish the film's English dialogue, based on writer/director Ryoo's translated Korean text.[29]

Release[edit]

The Berlin File was released in South Korea on January 31, 2013. It also had a limited theatrical run in 21 North American cities on February 15, 2013, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, New Orleans, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.[30][31][32]

Box office[edit]

The action blockbuster had a strong opening, drawing more than 2.8 million admissions (US$19 million) in just over a week after its release, with 1.53 million tickets sold during its first weekend alone.[33][34][35][36][37][38][39]

A scene in which Ha Jung-woo's character gobbles a baguette was not included in the final edit, and director Ryoo Seung-wan promised fans to make the footage public when the film exceeded 3 million admissions. The clip was released on February 7.[40][41]

The film reached 5 million admissions after 14 days of release,[42][43] and eventually a total of 7.17 million admissions.[44][45] It took in ₩52.4 billion (US$43.9 million) at the Korean box office.[1][46]

Critical reception[edit]

Local critics praised the action set-pieces and acting performances, with the caveat that the film's overall quality was hindered by the overly convoluted plot.

According to Yonhap and Screen Daily, the film's highlights were "its spectacular and breathtaking fight and action scenes" and "secretive and gloomy atmosphere."[47][48] Film Business Asia stated that the film is "flawed by a finale that doesn't top the previous set pieces but otherwise contains enough superbly staged action and rich performances to keep any audience hooked for two hours."[49]

The Korea Times called the actors "superb," with special mention to how Ha Jung-woo "breathe(s) a layer of complexity into the shortest of lines," the "brilliant" Ryoo Seung-bum, and that Jun Ji-hyun "deftly handles" her role. But though it opined that Ryoo "has never produced a more polished action movie" with its "tightly-packed and smartly-placed action scenes," it panned the script for being "preposterous and un-ambitious at the same time."[43]

The Berlin File received mostly positive reviews from major US media outlets during its North American theatrical release.[50][51]

The New York Times hailed its "exhilarating action set pieces," adding that Ryoo "brings his brand of muscular action and quicksilver agility to the shifting battleground of international espionage."[52]

The Hollywood Reporter praised the careful balancing of narrative tension, writing that "the film crackles with tense character conflict."[10]

Bloomberg gave it four stars out of five, saying, "the film offers just about all you could ask of a genre flick; poisoning, defections, a secret North Korean bank account, gloriously choreographed fights that go insanely over the top, febrile tension and doomy romance."[53]

The Village Voice said, "the enjoyable analog antics end with one character boarding the train bound for Vladivostok, but judging from the evidence, it's Hollywood where we can expect to see Ryoo Seung-wan appear before long."[54]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Recipients Result Ref.
2013
49th Baeksang Arts Awards
Best Film The Berlin File Nominated [55][56]
Best Director Ryoo Seung-wan Nominated
Best Actor Ha Jung-woo Won [57][58]
Mnet 20's Choice Awards
20's Movie Star, Male Nominated
20's Movie Star, Female Jun Ji-hyun Nominated
22nd Buil Film Awards
Best Director Ryoo Seung-wan Won
Best Music Jo Yeong-wook Won
Best Screenplay Ryoo Seung-wan Nominated
Best Cinematography Choi Young-hwan Nominated
Best Art Direction Jeon Soo-ah Nominated
50th Grand Bell Awards
Best Cinematography Choi Young-hwan Won
Best Lighting Kim Sung-kwan Won
Best Editing Kim Sang-bum Nominated
Best Costume Design Shin Ji-young Nominated
Best Art Direction Jeon Soo-ah Nominated
34th Blue Dragon Film Awards
Best Film The Berlin File Nominated
Best Director Ryoo Seung-wan Nominated
Best Cinematography Choi Young-hwan Won
Best Lighting Kim Sung-kwan Won
Best Art Direction Jeon Soo-ah Nominated
Technical Award Jung Doo-hong, Han Jung-wook Nominated
14th Busan Film Critics Awards
Jung Doo-hong Won
2014
19th Chunsa Film Art Awards
Choi Young-hwan Nominated

Sequel[edit]

Ryoo Seung-wan announced in October 2015 that he had already written a draft screenplay for a sequel, which he aims to shoot in Vladivostok and Korea, then release by 2017.[46]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Berlin File (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  2. ^ Park, Hye-eun (4 February 2013). "2013 Global Project BIG 3 – THE BERLIN FILE". Korean Cinema Today. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  3. ^ Lee, Eun-sun (14 December 2012). "THE BERLIN FILE Set for Release in Early 2013". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2012-12-19. 
  4. ^ Oh, Mi-jung (23 January 2013). "The Stars of The Berlin File Say They Had a Hard Time Speaking in German and English". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 2013-01-23. 
  5. ^ Conran, Pierce (7 February 2013). "In Focus: The Berlin File". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-02-26. 
  6. ^ "Gianna Jun to be in Ryoo's Berlin File". Korean Film Council. 19 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  7. ^ Park, Eun-jee (21 September 2012). "The Spy, Covertness offer different takes on espionage". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 1 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  8. ^ Lee, Hye-ji (12 December 2012). "Ha Jung-woo's Upcoming Action Flick to Open in 2013". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  9. ^ "Interview with Ha Jeong-woo, Jeon Ji-yeon, and Ryu Seung-beom of The Berlin File". KOFICE. 20 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  10. ^ a b Lowe, Justin (9 February 2013). "The Berlin File: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  11. ^ "Action thriller THE BERLIN FILE to hit North American theaters February 2013!". CJ Entertainment. 21 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  12. ^ "The Berlin File (2012)". The Chosun Ilbo. 1 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-02. 
  13. ^ An, So-hyoun (20 January 2013). "Ha Jung Woo Says He was Happy to be with Han Seok Gyu for The Berlin File". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 2013-01-23. 
  14. ^ Oh, Mi-jung (13 February 2013). "Interview: Ha Jung Woo Says He Loves Korean Food a Lot". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  15. ^ Oh, Mi-jung (23 January 2013). "Why Han Seok Gyu Never Gives Interviews or Appears in Variety". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 2013-01-23. 
  16. ^ Lee, Jin-ho (31 January 2013). "Interview: Han Seok Gyu Sometimes Hates to See Himself Act". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  17. ^ Oh, Mi-jung (9 February 2013). "Interview Part I: Ryu Seung Bum Returns as a North Korean Bully in The Berlin File". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  18. ^ Oh, Mi-jung (9 February 2013). "Interview Part II: Ryu Seung Bum Says He Opened the Renaissance of Hope and Dreams". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  19. ^ Sunwoo, Carla (5 January 2013). "Jun Ji-hyun injured in action scene". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 10 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-09. 
  20. ^ Oh, Mi-jung (9 January 2013). "Jun Ji Hyun Says She Had to Pretend She was Awkward in Action Scenes for The Berlin File". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 2013-01-09. 
  21. ^ Son, Jin-ah (22 January 2013). "Jun Ji Hyun talks about speaking in North Korean dialect in the movie". StarN News. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  22. ^ Lee, Jin-ho (3 February 2013). "Interview: Jun Ji Hyun Says She′s Become More Confident Following Her Marriage". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  23. ^ Jeong, Ji-won (7 February 2013). "Jun Ji-hyun starts anew". Korea JoongAng Daily. Archived from the original on 16 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-07. 
  24. ^ a b Ju, Sung-chul (9 November 2011). "Four leading Korean directors working on overseas projects". Korean Cinema Today. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  25. ^ Suk, Monica (17 April 2012). "Ha Jung-woo, Jun Ji-hyun's new action flick cranks in". 10Asia. Retrieved 2012-11-18.
  26. ^ Frater, Patrick (24 April 2012). "Ryoo heads for Berlin". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on 8 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-05. 
  27. ^ Blaney, Martin (9 May 2012). "First European shoot for Korean action director Ryoo". Screen International. Retrieved 2013-02-05. 
  28. ^ Song, Ji-hwan (8 March 2013). "JUNG Doo-hong, Action Coordinator of THE BERLIN FILE". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-03-25. 
  29. ^ Geoghegan, Ted (2 August 2012). "Nice surprise from Korea..." Twitter. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  30. ^ Conran, Pierce (23 January 2013). "THE BERLIN FILE to Hit US Screens in Mid-February". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-01-25. 
  31. ^ Kim, Hyun-min (18 February 2013). "THE BERLIN FILE Begins Its U.S. Invasion". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  32. ^ Kim, Hyun-min (20 March 2013). "THE BERLIN FILES Exceeds USD 600,000 in 1 Month in North America". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-03-21. 
  33. ^ "Berlin File wows in advance release". Korea JoongAng Daily. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  34. ^ Cremin, Stephen (31 January 2013). "Berlin files strong opening in S. Korea". Film Business Asia. Retrieved 2013-02-01. 
  35. ^ Kim, Hyun-min (1 February 2013). "THE BERLIN FILE Sets a New Record". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-02-04. 
  36. ^ Yun, Suh-young (4 February 2013). "Action flick Berlin starts with a bang". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-02-05. 
  37. ^ "Berlin File Off to a Roaring Start". The Chosun Ilbo. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-06. 
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  39. ^ Paquet, Darcy (7 February 2013). "Box Office: January 24 – February 6, 2013". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-02-10. 
  40. ^ Sunwoo, Carla (6 February 2013). "The Berlin File's lead stuffs his face". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2013-02-07. 
  41. ^ Jeon, Su-mi (7 February 2013). "Ha Jung Woo Eats Bread and Breakfast to Celebrate The Berlin Files' 3 Million". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 2013-02-09. 
  42. ^ Lee, Claire (13 February 2013). "The Berlin File hits 5 million mark". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  43. ^ a b Yun, Suh-young (13 February 2013). "Best ever? Not so fast". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-02-13. 
  44. ^ Lee, In-kyung (25 February 2013). "Ryu Seung Bum and Ryu Seung Wan Hold Stage Events for The Berlin File". enewsWorld. CJ E&M. Retrieved 2013-03-23. 
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  46. ^ a b Frater, Patrick (2 October 2015). "Busan: Ryoo Seung-wan Lines up Sequels to Veteran and The Berlin File". Variety. Retrieved 2015-10-05. 
  47. ^ Shim, Sun-ah (22 January 2013). "(Movie Review) The Berlin File entertains with spectacular action scenes". Yonhap. Retrieved 2013-01-26. 
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  50. ^ Lee, Eun-sun (19 February 2013). "Major US Press Praise for THE BERLIN FILE". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  51. ^ "U.S. Media Warms to The Berlin File". The Chosun Ilbo. 20 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  52. ^ Rapold, Nicolas (14 February 2013). "Threatened by Foe and Friend". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  53. ^ Seligman, Craig (14 February 2013). "Willis Dies Bored; Pretty 'Creatures'; 'Safe Haven': Film". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  54. ^ Foundas, Scott. "The Berlin File". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
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  56. ^ Hicap, Jonathan M. (5 April 2013). "49th Baeksang Arts Awards nominees revealed". Manila Bulletin. Retrieved 2013-04-11. 
  57. ^ Lee, Claire (10 May 2013). "Ryu Seung-ryong wins top prize at Paeksang". The Korea Herald. Retrieved 2013-05-10. 
  58. ^ Ji, Yong-jin (13 May 2013). "RYU Seung-ryong Wins Grand Prize at Baeksang Arts Awards". Korean Film Council. Retrieved 2013-05-14. 

External links[edit]