Park Heung Shik’s Memories of the Sword is a historical film set in the Goryeo period of Korean history starring Lee Byung Hun (Red 2; The Good, the Bad, the Weird) , Jeon Do Yeon (The Shameless), Kim Go Eun (Monster) and Lee Jun Ho (2PM member, Twenty).
This story of betrayal and retribution wasn’t told from the usual “revenge for pain” standpoint. Instead, retribution came in the form of repentance, which was as unexpected as it was oddly satisfying. Even though I know in my mind that these revenge stories are basically all the same, this one didn’t feel like the others. I had no idea what to expect all throughout the movie.
My assumptions of what was about to happen almost never came true. I felt like if I stopped anywhere in between that I would be left with an agonizing doubt that would gnaw at me until I finished this movie.
Lee Byung Hun as Deok Gi, later known as Yoo Baek , transformed so seamlessly from the role of a slave to that of an aristocrat that even I became hypnotized by the greed that fueled his character’s existence. Seol Rang/Wal So, played by Jeon Do Yeon, was equally convincing.
For me, she was the anchor in this movie. Her ability to believably portray the anguish that was rooted deep in Seol Rang/Wal So left a heartbreaking ache long after the movie ended. I found myself analyzing the self-hatred her character must have felt to have made the choices she did.
Of course, no revenge-story could be complete without a hero, but I don’t know if you could call Kim Go Eun’s character , Hong Ee also known as Seol Hee, a hero. Yes, she was the deliverer of reckoning, but it was neither bittersweet nor deserving for her character.
Honestly, she is the one I felt most deeply for throughout the entire movie. She was magnificent. Everything from frustrating naivety to the growth of an unstoppable force was absolutely fantastic. Even her short-lived curiosity with Yul, Lee Jun Ho’s character, was contradictory sweet and dangerous, yet well-placed. I have not seen any of the other films that Lee Jun Ho is in, but he has won me over as an actor-idol and that’s hard to do.
I actually thought he was Bi-Rain (Ninja Assassin) at first, but caught my mistake quickly. Had I not, my status as an international Hottest (2PM fan club) may have been challenged. Anyway, I digress.
Memories of the Sword started off a bit whimsical causing me to feel a small pang of regret for paying the six bucks for the 2-day rental fee charged by U-Verse On Demand. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see the movie progress rather quickly.
Before the plot, or even a basic understanding of the whole point of the movie was revealed, the protagonist and villain crossed paths. There was no long drawn out backstory to wade through before the action began. Almost immediately after the first encounter, the story began to reveal the tumultuous relationship that entwined them all.
I felt forced to choose sides and ended up changing twice. At one point the movie felt over before it even began. I was confused as to how it would progress from there. I will say this was the one point in the movie that I was not completely sold on.
However, I did mention that there was a bit of whimsy and fantasy about the story. So just keep that in mind. Thankfully it’s only a small amount so it’s easily absorbed as a part of the story.
As bloody as it is dramatic, Memories of the Sword has the potential to appeal to most. The hero is an emotionally driven young girl who is raised by someone with a flawed sense of duty. The antihero is typically overambitious to the point of harming others; and then there is the side-kick with a minimal but impactful role.
They are all embroiled in a whirlwind of emotional danger that half of them never even knew about. The best thing is the movie isn’t over-saturated with one thing. There is just enough blood, guts, love and intrigue to make it a worthwhile investment of time for any preference. So much so that I think I will take advantage of that second day rental and watch it again.
If you’re not willing to pay the six bucks for demand, it is definitely worth the wait and prayer for it to come to Netflix.
Last note before I go. It’s no stretch to say that I am an avid fan of Well Go USA. This may be largely contributed to my deep love and adoration of Asian cinema period, but I really think it’s just because they produce outstanding films. I also have a soft spot for period pieces from almost every country. Not only are the stories more fascinating and a bit fantastical, the costumes and sets are a rich blend of workmanship and color that is a rare sight in our lives today.
My views are completely biased by those two facts, but even still, Memories of the Sword is a great watch. So don’t miss it!
CoolHappyMe Rating: 5 stars