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Secretly Greatly ("Eunmilhage Widaehage")

Canadian Premiere
  • South Korea
  • 2013
  • 127 mins
  • DCP
  • Korean
  • English (subtitles)
Official Selection, New York Asian Film Festival 2013

The 5446 unit of the North Korean army is composed of highly trained killing machines completely devoted to their country. Lieutenant Won Ryu-han represents the elite of this division. He was shaped to be a true animal and sent to the South in an infiltration mission. Waiting on instructions that will allow him to reach glory or die a legendary death, he must integrate into his new environment as the village idiot. It has been two years he’s played the fool for this colourful community, who all fell for it. Following a strict code, he trips and falls at least three times a day, defecates in public and lets himself be bullied by people he could kill with a kleenex. However, his torments seem to be over when two young North Korean spies come to town — Hae-rang, pretending to be a young rocker and Hae-jin, in the role of a student. While Ryu-han helps them get integrated, some political wrangling is afoot up North concerning the 5446 unit. When Ryu-han receives the much awaited signal, he cannot believe his eyes. Every member of 5446 is ordered to kill himself, or mutually kill each other. If they disobey, the one that taught them everything will personally go eliminate them.

In 2010, director Jang Cheol-soo took the world by surprise with his first feature BEDEVILLED, selected at the Semaine de la critique in Cannes. Following Juhn Jai-hong (POONGSAN) and Jang Hun (ROUGH CUT), another student of Kim Ki-duk (BAD GUY) asserted himself with a dense and intense work reminding of the glory days of the Korean New Wave. For his second film, Jang tackles something enormous: adapting the popular web comic Covertness. As evidenced by the record attendance at the night of its release (previously held by THE HOST since 2006), he managed to do it masterfully. SECRETLY GREATLY unfurls twice, offering a hilarious first half where one watches Ryu-han’s slapstick prowess and hears him curse his surroundings, and then the film transforms half-way into relentless suspense in which explosive action scenes abound. The young star Kim Soo-hyun (THE THIEVES) is surprising in the lead role, offering a stunningly physical performance, leading a stellar cast composed of endearing personalities. Funny, exciting and powerful, SECRETLY GREATLY must be seen on a big screen, whether to see the trajectory of one of the most promising Korean directors, or to see the perfect summer blockbuster.

— Nicolas Archambault