Film Review: Veteran (2015) + The Throne (2015) | Belated Happy Birthday, Yoo Ah-in!

yaiIt was Yoo Ah-in’s birthday last Friday so I thought of finally reviewing these two movies of his that I’ve seen. I’ve loved Yoo Ah-in since 2010, when he made everyone suffer from Second Lead Syndrome in Sungkyunkwan Scandal. I was even a contributor for one of his international fan sites. (I tend to be obsessive, okay.) BELATED HAPPY BIRTHDAY, OPPA!!! (Forgive me for being late. Huhu. This was supposed to be posted last Friday but I got so busy and I wasn’t able to finish the reviews.)

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Veteran (2015): With Veteran being mentioned in New Journey to the West probably at least twice every season, I finally had the urge to watch it. (And because I stan NJTTW so much. NJTTW is life. So I try to watch anything and everything it mentions.) Maybe I ended up expecting too much because of all the hype and praises this movie got but this one didn’t fire at all-cylinders for me. I think the two-hour runtime was longer than how it should have been, given the story it was telling. (I know, right? I don’t want more Yoo Ah-in? Is this for real??)

The acting was on-point, especially Yoo Ah-in’s turn as a coke-sniffing, violent chaebol asshole. His turn as a villain was surprisingly good. I was really scared of him and how unhinged he was! And I was so disgusted by the depths of evil his character were capable of. Hwang Jung-min is always on-point so his turn as this righteous unconventional cop was right on.

Aside from those two though, no other character was really fleshed out. Actually, in retrospect, Yoo Ah-in’s character wasn’t that dimensional too. He was captivating and intriguing to watch, this character who you don’t know just how evil and disturbed he could be. But aside from that, it didn’t feel like he had motivations and intents, except being sociopathic. Shoutout to all the cops in this film, by the way. I liked Hwang Jung-min’s team. And his wife too. She was awesome. Haha!

I do wish the movie had a tighter story execution because I only found myself invested and caring halfway through the film. The first half, which established the main characters and put them into place, took so long that I ended up pausing a lot of times to go on Twitter. Haha! But once the second half started, it was ALL GOOD.

I know that set-up is important, especially in films. Because why would you spend two hours watching a film when you don’t root for its characters? When you don’t care about anything at all? So I know that the first half was imperative for the story but I just wish that the set-up was faster.

The final throwdown was definitely one for the books though. How I wish I was one of the extras in that scene, just watching Hwang Jung-min and Yoo Ah-in duke it out. Haha! The directing was assured and complimented the story the film was telling. Probably because the director was also the screenwriter.

***

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The Throne (2015): Who cried in the wee hours of the morning because of this film? THIS GIRL. I admittedly had a hard time at the start of the film because I do not watch sageuks (or anything historical for that matter) and find it hard to do so. But Yoo Ah-in is here and after watching Veteran, I thought it’s finally time to see why he’s so popular and critically acclaimed in SoKor. I mean, I loved him in Sungkyunkwan Scandal but he only shot to stardom after this movie, Veteran, and Six Flying Dragons. And after watching both Veteran and The Throne (Sado is its title in Korea), I can understand why. The anguish, the love, the “crazy”: he was so good at portraying it all. His take on Crown Prince Sado was so heartbreaking I didn’t know I’d end up bawling at 3AM because of this. IT WAS SO PAINFUL.

For those like me who don’t know jack shit about Korean history, Crown Prince Sado was King Yeongjo’s son. At age 27, he was sentenced to death by HIS OWN FATHER. He died of starvation after being confined to a rice chest and dying on the eighth day. Sado was his posthumous name, given by his father, which means “thinking of with great sorrow”. He was said to mentally ill, and was rumored that he planned on killing his father. If he faced his charges as a criminal, his wife and son would also be punished. Facing this dilemma, the King Yeongjo told his son to get inside a rice chest. Before watching the film, I did a quick google search and found those details. So I knew he was going to die BUT I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS GONNA BE THIS PAINFUL GOOD LORD.

At first, I found it hard to memorize all the royal titles and who’s who: who’s wangbi or jungjeon (the queen consort), the daebi (queen dowager), the seja (crown prince), the wangseson or seson (crown prince’s son), and so on. But after familiarizing myself with those (there are only a few characters in this film), I felt confident following the story. I was swept by the Crown Prince’s charisma. He might not be into learning and as sharp as his son, but he was artistic and he loved his family. But he could never reach his father’s expectations of him and King Yeongjo was always disappointed in him. You could really see the weight this tolls on the Crown Prince and Yoo Ah-in was able to portray it all. Especially when his own son delights the King, while he rots away, drinking all day.

Knowing that he’s proclaimed death on the eighth day made watching the film excruciating. With every single day, I knew his death was coming. And not a day passed without me crying. I especially bawled every time his son, the seson, pleaded again and again to his grandfather to let his father go. EVERYTHING WAS JUST PAINFUL. That kid is also such a great actor. Hoping the best for his career!

I never felt any liking to Song Kang-ho’s King Yeongjo because I felt like he never really loved his son as a son but looked at him as the crown prince and quite possibly an enemy. But by the movie’s end I was crying YET AGAIN at him and for him. While I wished we were shown more of the king’s dilemma or his love for his son warring with his duty as the king, the film was still able to break my heart. Song Kang-ho definitely took on this role and became the king. I was alternately in awe and enraged at him. JUST LOVE YOUR SON! HE’S YOUR SON HOW COULD YOU DO THAT? But then again, if he didn’t do that, he would have killed his own son and his son’s wife and son. GAH DECISIONS DILEMMA. #itssohardtobeaking

The production set was good and I liked the lighting in this film and the angles. It wasn’t breathtakingly beautiful or what, but I had this feeling of something’s brewing underneath the surface? Everything felt serene and calm at the start but it felt like something’s gonna happen. I’m not sure if that’s just me knowing a bit of the plot or the cinematography really evoked that.

Surprisingly, even though I evade tearjerkers and almost never rewatch them, I want to watch The Throne again. Why? I wanted to catch the nuances in acting of both Song Kang-ho and Yoo Ah-in. Seriously, after watching this one, I was so tired from all the crying and all the feelings. I feel like I wasn’t able to appreciate their acting completely because my tears were blocking my eyes. Hahaha! So much anguish and pain and heartbreak in this film.

I definitely recommend this one but only if you’re ready to feel things. Watch this if you want to hurt and release pent-up sadness. I mean, it just feels good to cry ~because~ of a film even though it’s just a catalyst, isn’t it?

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