유령 (Yuryeong)

South Korea, 2023, 133’, Korean, Japanese
Directed by: Lee Hae-young
Screenplay: Lee Hae-young
Photography (color): Ju Sung-lim
Editing: Yang Jin-mo
Production Design: Kim Bo-mook
Music: Dal Palan
Producers: Park Un-kyung, Jung Chang-hoon
Cast: Sol Kyung-gu (Junji Murayama), Lee Ha-nee (Park Cha-kyung), Park So-dam (Yuriko), Park Hae-soo (Kaito), Kim Dong-hee (Baek-ho), Seo Hyun-woo (Mr. Cheon), Esom (Nan-young)

Date of First Release in Territory: January 18th, 2023


The year is 1933, more than two decades into Japan’s harsh colonization of Korea. A new Japanese resident-general arrives in Seoul, but is immediately targeted in an assassination attempt that only fails by the narrowest of margins. The police believe that a shadowy resistance group is being assisted by a spy, code-named “Phantom,” who has access to the internal communications of the colonial government. Newly-appointed security chief Kaito (Park Hae-soo, Squid Game) traces leaked information back to five potential suspects, and without delay he carts them off to a seaside hotel. There he sets about trying to determine which of the five is the Phantom.
Detained in this elaborately furnished hotel which has listening devices in every room and torture chambers in the basement are Murayama (Sol Kyung-gu, Oasis), an elite Japanese-Korean police officer; Park Cha-kyung (Lee Ha-nee, Extreme Job), an official in the police bureau’s communications department; the fastidious code-breaker Mr. Cheon (Suh Hyun-woo, Thunderbird); the tempestuous Yuriko (Park So-dam, Parasite), secretary to a high-ranking Japanese officer; and the visibly scared Baek-ho (debut actor Kim Dong-hee), an office worker at the communications department.
Phantom is based on Mai Jia’s 2007 Chinese novel Sound of the Wind, which also served as the source material for Chen Kuo-fu and Gao Qunshu’s 2009 film The Message. For the first half of its running time, Phantom is an exquisitely staged drama of intrigue and slowly accumulating tension, as the suspects maneuver to gain information about each other and dodge Kaito’s watchful eye. Each character is vividly imagined and presented in such a way that the audience too is left guessing about their motivations. But then things quickly come to a head at a dinner staged by Kaito, when the investigation almost literally explodes into a dynamic, fast-paced confrontation and pursuit which will take us all the way to the film’s conclusion. 
Director Lee Hae-young has grown steadily more ambitious in the course of his career, reaching a breakthrough of sorts with his fourth feature Believer, which similarly combined intrigue and dynamic bursts of action. In Phantom, the subtle plotting of the first half and the pyrogenics of the second half are quite different in pacing and style, but they are equally ambitious. As propulsive and exciting the second half of the film is, the first half is no less engaging because of its intriguing characters and great performances. In that sense, we get the full spectrum of what Lee Hae-young is able to accomplish as a director.
As for the cast, each actor stands out in different ways, and it’s exciting to watch this talented group of performers all interact and clash with each other. But it’s two of the female characters, Park Cha-kyung and Yuriko, who ultimately make the strongest impression. Both are well-written roles played by supremely talented actors, and when the action breaks out in the second half, they light up the screen. Lee Ha-nee is a star and former Miss Korea who has delivered two spectacular performances already in 2023 in Phantom and Killing Romance. Park So-dam, meanwhile, has followed up her success in Parasite with dynamic roles in 2022’s Special Delivery and now this film. The energy they each bring to the screen is different, but together they make for a powerful combination.   


Lee Hae-young


Lee Hae-young studied advertising at the Seoul Institute of the Arts. He collaborated with writer/director Lee Hae-jun on screenplays such as Conduct Zero (2002). Their directorial debut was the many-awarded Like a Virgin (2006). The two then began to pursue separate projects, with Lee Hae-young directing four more features (all of which screened at FEFF): the sex dramedy Foxy Festival (2010); atmospheric horror film The Silenced (2015), set at a girls’ boarding school in 1938; the box office hit Believer, which is a remake of Johnnie To’s Drug War; and Phantom, a spy thriller/action film set during the Japanese colonial period.  


2006 – Like a Virgin
2010 – Foxy Festival
2015 – The Silenced
2018 – Believer
2023 – Phantom

Darcy Paquet
Film director: LEE Hae-young
Year: 2023
Running time: 133'
Country: South Korea
22/04 - 9:40 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
22-04-2023 21:40 22-04-2023 23:53Europe/Rome Phantom Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine