Friday, January 3, 2014

Review: Masquerade (2012)

Masquerade (Review)
Choo Chang-min/Lee Byung-hun/2012
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime 

"...incredibly engaging and even addicting as I was glued to my seat."

Troubled by the fear of conspiracy and assassination, Joseon Dynasty King Gwang-hae (Lee Byung-hun) orders his councilor, Heo Gyun (Ryu Seung-ryong), to find his exact body double. Heo Gyun finds Ha-sun (also Lee Byung-hun), a joker with a striking resemblance to the king...

Masquerade continues as worst comes to worst and King Gwang-hae falls ill. Initially supposed to only spend nights as his double, Ha-sun now has to take on Gwang-hae's responsibilities as King. And so, Ha-sun begins to adapt to the King's lifestyle -- he learns how to interact with his council and his servants in order to create a believable facade. He'll often be questioned, and it's interesting to see how his character evolves -- and he does evolve. Although occasionally humorous, much of the film revolves around politics and how they worked at the time -- and it speaks volumes on how it works now. The final act becomes much more dramatic with great suspense and emotion; in other words, the ending is fantastic.

Masquerade is a historical drama. The story and the storytelling are incredibly engaging and even addicting as I was glued to my seat. The film blends its humorous and dramatic elements well, and keeps a strong yet almost subtle political theme, as well. The humor fits perfectly with the characters and settings, and it is genuinely funny. Meanwhile, the politics keeps you engaged, while the drama is emotionally effective; both of these elements clash during the third act to create a thrilling yet emotional finale. The pacing is also great and the film never feels bloated or long despite passing two hours.

The entire cast is great as they immerse themselves into this world. Lee Byung-hun is particularly impressive with a wide-ranged performance, from stern king to a humorous clown; and, furthermore, his characters evolve greatly from beginning to end, and you'll notice this during his final shot. Otherwise, the film is a technical benchmark for the genre. The cinematography is superb, the costume and set design are authentic, and the music is well-fitted. It all blends together to immerse you into the world. On top of it all, you have superb direction from Choo Chang-min.

Overall, Masquerade is a superb historical drama. It's incredibly entertaining and even emotionally satisfying -- you might even shed a tear. On top of that, the film is technically exceptional. Don't miss out on this film.

Score: 10/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

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