When Kingmaker premiered in Korea last December, it opened to rave reviews. Starring acting heavyweights Lee Sun-kyun (My Mister, Parasite, Coffee Prince) and Sol Kyung-gu (The Merciless, Silmildo), the film centres around pharmacist and naturalised North Korean, Seo Chang-dae (Lee) and aspiring president, Kim Woon-bum (Sol), during the 1970’s as Seo aims to change the world through Kim’s political campaign.
The film’s backdrop mirrors real life in 1970’s Korea, with the Republican party in power and anti-communist sentiment still high following the Korean War. Kim and Seo are reportedly based on real-life figures – late former President Kim Dae-jung and his PI agent Um Chang-rok.
While dirty politics is something we often hear about, the film plays out the ideological difference between both men, with Seo’s underhanded – but successful – tactics winning votes for Kim, who feels his methods are not real politics. It was interesting watching all the different methods Seo carried out, in order to swing public opinion towards Kim.
Films with little action (and by action we mean explosions, gun fights and special effects) and mostly dialogue run the risk of being boring, but the nuanced acting of Lee and Sol, along with a talented and well-known supporting cast, keeps the film from entering snooze-land. K-drama and K-movie fans will recognise Yoo Jae-myung (Reply 1997, Itaewon Class), Jo Woo-jin (Happiness, Mr Sunshine), Park In-hwan (Navillera, Thirst) among others.
New characters are introduced along the way, political rivals and allies, who test the relationship between Kim and Seo – while they have a strong bond, the difference in morals between the ambitious strategist Seo and steadfast Kim end up coming to a head.
Beautifully shot, the film’s colour tones bring to mind a sense of nostalgia, from the browns and blacks of the clothing, to the dark green, white and grey of the office. The lighting and framing of the characters further emphasises how Seo is ‘The Shadow’ who seeks to reach ‘The Light’, Kim.
Don’t miss out on KINGMAKER, now available on Astro’s VOD platform.