A thriller with surprises at every turn

Hyun Bin (centre) turns in a convincing portrayal as a kidnapper.
Hyun Bin (centre) turns in a convincing portrayal as a kidnapper.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES



114mins/ Opens today/ 4 stars

The story: When a South Korean journalist is captured and held hostage in Bangkok, Seoul police negotiator Han Chae-yoon (Son Ye-jin) is called in to talk to kidnapper Min Tae-gu (Hyun Bin) to find out what he wants.

It is important to pay attention to every detail on the screen at all times because some of them may turn out to be crucial to the plot later on.

That is how clever and carefully designed the story is in this taut thriller, as audiences, much like lead negotiator Chae-yoon, are continually surprised by every new and twisty development.

One of the major reasons for the film's success is how it sets up the fact that no one can or should be trusted, no matter which side of the law they are on.

This sets most South Korean crime films apart from typical Chinese movie offerings, as they dare to depict government authorities as corrupt or incompetent.

There is, of course, at least one obvious villain in this kind of genre movie and he is played with convincing viciousness by Hyun, a heart-throb better known for his romantic comedies. This is his first villain role.

Every time he picks up the gun and starts playing with it, it is hard to tell what he will do next, which makes him all the more scary.

But he is not just some psychotic killer randomly letting off steam - Tae-gu has a strong motive for what he is doing, which makes this a satisfying watch.

Hyun is so good here that he threatens to steal the limelight from Son, although she is equally terrific in her role.

Chae-yoon is a crisis negotiator with emotions, which, as Tae-gu rightfully points out to her, may set her back in her career. But this trait makes her human too, so she smartly employs other tricks to get what she wants.

Right up until the end of the movie, it is difficult to tell which side will be the first to give in.

Given that much of the action happens within two small rooms, separated only by a video call, the amount of tension built is impressive.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2018, with the headline 'A thriller with surprises at every turn'. Subscribe