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The Fatal Encounter Review

The Fatal EncounterDirector: Lee Jae Kyoo

Cast: Hyun Bin, Jeong Jae Yeong, Jo Jung Suk, Jeong Eun Chae, Park Seong Woong, Han Ji Min

Running time: 135 minutes

Synopsis: In Korea in 1777, King Jeongjo (Hyun Bin) becomes the target of an assassination attempt during a time when the country finds itself being split into different factions.

THE FATAL ENCOUNTER attracted large crowds in its native South Korea last month. Not only does it recount a true story with visual flair and style, not to mention complex emotional relationships, but it also saw popular star Hyun Bin return to acting after undertaking mandatory military service. Hyun Bin is most famous for his Korean TV dramas in which he has starred, but this is his first period piece as well as the director’s first feature length film. Unfortunately, Lee Jae Kyoo’s inexperience shows, with a very messily edited and confusing film.

The plot itself is one of great intrigue, as we are not just presented with an assassination attempt, but one which is intertwined with deep relationships that are fully developed and explored. King Jeongjo discovers that his childhood friend, Sang Chaek (Jeong Jae Yeong) has always been a planted assassin. The love and betrayal these two share is painful to watch, and both stars give their all. It’s a fantastic cinematic tragedy which gets lost in the needlessly twisted narrative.

The film starts at the end before travelling back in time 20 hours, thus leading us up to the assassination attempt. But this isn’t the only time bending attempted. We’re also treated to flashbacks to many years earlier, which is fine for building character, but then (especially toards the end) we’re shown flashbacks to a few hours previously, just to provide us with some twists and turns. This becomes an excruciating watch, as your brain is constantly trying to piece things together. One scene begins with “2 hours earlier,” and then the next scene is “1 hour and 15 minutes earlier.” Now then, is that 1 hours and 15 minutes earlier than the previous scene or 1 hour and 15 minutes before the present timeline the majority of the film takes place in? I don’t know, and my head is hurting just thinking about it again. Lee Jae Kyoo sacrifices an interesting story for a few last second twists.

The film is also uneven in its pacing when not jumping through time. The first hour is a series of long and boring discussions, shot almost statically as people just sit opposite each other and try and recount the convoluted politics. This contrasts with the last 30 minutes which offers some astonishing action. CGI arrows, slow motion martial arts in the rain, blood splashes, are all utilised for an excellent finale, but having just confused and bored its audience for the past hour or so, you have no idea what the fight is about or why you should care.

With excellent performances and a genuinely engaging tale buried somewhere, this disappoints because it could have been something so much better. All the ingredients are there, but it seems as though each scene was placed randomly and rather than reedit the film, they just slapped on the time passage subtitles.

[usr=2]THE FATAL ENCOUNTER has a limited release in North American cinemas from 23rd May.

Luke likes many things, films and penguins being among them. He's loved films since the age of 9, when STARGATE and BATMAN FOREVER changed the landscape of modern cinema as we know it. His love of film extends to all aspects of his life, with trips abroad being planned around film locations and only buying products featured in Will Smith movies. His favourite films include SEVEN SAMURAI, PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, IN BRUGES, LONE STAR, GODZILLA, and a thousand others.

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