Whenever there was an opposition party that threatened his position, the President always told his subordinates two sentences to stop whatever threat he might face: “You have my full support. Do as you like. "
The Man Standing Next delves into a time that we may never have heard of before, or even never realized as I was before watching this film. A time when South Korea was being ruled by a dictator for 18 years named President Park ( Lee Sung-min ) and what caused his assassination occurred in 1979.
The film, which is South Korea's representative for the upcoming Oscar, is a political thriller drama that is not too rushed in conveying its narrative, but prefers to let the tempo of the story adapt to what is happening in the story, so that I feel the film is really alive. in conveying what he wanted to convey.
We follow Kim Gyu-pyeong ( Lee Byung-hun ), a director for South Korean intelligence agency KCIA. As Park's old friend, Kim always said that he would always be by his side. They also sometimes drink together while remembering the past where the two of them were still high-ranking officers in the military who carried out a coup for the previous government.
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But the longer the relationship between Kim and Park grew apart, along with differences in opinion between the two about how the right solution was to solve some of the problems that were happening at that time, such as how they should stop Park Yong-gak ( Kwak Do-won ), the former director of KCIA. who leaked President Park's dictatorism to the public and how to stop the riots that occurred in South Korea due to increasing government oppression.
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Kim's pressure is also getting higher due to his relationship that has become antagonistic towards President Kwak Sang-Cheon ( Hee-joon Lee ), where President Park begins to exile Kim and often advises Kwak because the two have similar thoughts: Suppress his people with fear by increasing military oppression against anyone who dares to oppose Park's leadership. "Just run them over with tanks," said one of them when discussing how to stop the ongoing rioting.
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Adapted from the non-fiction book Namsanui Bujangdeul by Kim Choong-Sik, Director Woo Min-ho has made a film that contains a very solid narrative. Even though the film has a duration of almost 2 hours, the story owned by The Man Standing Next still seems so thick that it is easy for the audience - especially me who doesn't know the political history of South Korea - to feel confused and also lost in the middle of the story.
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But even so, Woo Min-ho also swiftly can still make the film's tone feel stable and also tells the story with a tempo that is not rushed, so that some confusion that occurs can be easily cleared in the next few scenes and always results in a satisfying viewing experience. , until the end of the film.
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The Man Standing Next also never wasted his time, because all the events that took place in the film perfectly build not only the anticipation but also the climax for the end of the film, where if history tells us, is the incident of the assassination of President Park. It is at the end of the film that the tense elements become more felt and come alive, where the whole film really starts to play its thriller elements .
Lee Byung-hun as the main character is also able to play his full character with a sufficiently dramatic and emotional level that is not excessive, so that the character Kim in the film always feels connected to the narrative he is facing. We perfectly feel all anxiety, all anger and all ambiguity from it.
He is an interesting actor, because in Hollywood he always finds a role as a side character in an action film , such as in the GI Joe film series , Terminator Genisys and also in The Magnificent Seven . Here, we are given an opportunity to see him shine with a level of emotion that we rarely get in the films I mentioned earlier. And also he is not surprising, able to bring The Man Standing Next into a film that is more interesting and more tense through his character, Kim.
The Man Standing Next is also a breath of fresh air for a political film, because in it there are no pure good characters. In contrast to most political films where the main character is usually portrayed as someone with a pure heart. All the characters here, including Kim himself, always have ambiguity in his morals. Here, "good people" are very relevant because behind every decision there is always an ulterior motive behind it. Here, politics is very dirty and chaotic.
I still feel very unfortunate that I didn't have the chance to watch this film in theaters last year (I had seen it in theaters before COVID-19 came), because I can imagine the experience of watching the cinema will be much more interesting for a film like this. As South Korea's representative for the Oscars to be held in three months, I do feel The Man Standing Next is a film that deserves it. Will this film really win the nominations? We'll just wait.
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