Friday, April 8, 2016

Review: Memories of the Sword (2015)

Memories of the Sword (Review)
Park Heung-shik/Lee Byung-hun/2015
Where to Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"The presentation is gorgeous, the action was exhilarating, and the narrative was effective."

During the Goryeo era in Korea, three swords are bound by vengeance, betrayal, and love...

Memories of the Sword is a wuxia-style Korean drama-action film. The story often jumps between past and present, but it's fortunately not confusing. (Some characters use two names in the film, but I'll stick to only one in order to avoid confusion during this review. It's not confusing in the film, though.) So, Hong-ee (Kim Go-eun) is a young orphan raised by master swordsman Seol-rang (Jeon Do-yeon). Seol-rang raises Hong-ee like one of her own, training the young woman to murder the people that killed her parents. Seol-rang trains her to defeat Deok-gi (Lee Byung-hung), a powerful general rising through the ranks in the Goryeo Dynasty. To Hong-ee's dismay, she'll also have to defeat Seol-rang, who was also responsible for her parents' deaths. There are a few cliche stops in this narrative, but there are also some interesting revelations. Ultimately, it leads to a tragically poignant ending — I liked it.

I actually really liked Memories of the Sword. The storytelling was fluid, the action was exciting, and the romance and drama were effective. The narrative, despite some cliches, kept me engaged from beginning to end. The drama can be a tad melodramatic at times, but it isn't necessarily bad. It just feels a little out of place, for lack of a better term. Regardless, it's very effective and efficient. I mention the latter because there was some missing character, but it still managed to hit. Although the relationship and characters for Seol-rang and Deok-gi are well-built, I was left yearning for more of Hong-ee. You get that she's a fun-loving girl with the burden of vengeance on her shoulders, but you don't get much more, which is disappointing. I loved the wuxia-style action sequences, too, but it does feel like a one-trick pony by the end. The slow motion really amplifies the beauty, but it was overused.

The acting was great, too. Like I said, it can be a bit melodramatic, but it is ultimately effective. Lee Byung-hun and Jeon Do-yeon are filled with genuine emotion. Kim Go-eun, who delivered a fine performance in Monster, is also great. I wish she had more screen time and a more 'unique' character, but she did fine with what she had. The film is shot beautifully in both cinematography and camerawork. The setting and costume design are great. This is a beautiful film to look at. The film is written by Park Heung-shik and Choi A-reum; Park also directs. In terms of writing and direction, I liked it. It's not the most original film, but it is well-structured, effectively tragic, and very entertaining. There are some characters that were underdeveloped, but it ultimately manages to leave a strong impression.

Overall, Memories of the Sword was a great experience. The presentation is gorgeous, the action was exhilarating, and the narrative was effective. It may not be perfect, but it is entertaining and effective. Perhaps it was my recent disappointment with wuxia film 14 Blades, but this film really rejuvenated my love for the genre. Again, it's not perfect or the most original film, but it is a finely-made piece of entertainment and art.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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