Writer/Director/Star Lee Jung-jae has created a heady brew of fact, fiction, and intense action in his spy thriller Hunt.
Hunt takes the political strife and powder keg struggles of the early 1980s of South Korea with both its own people and North Korea and turns it into electrifying melodrama. That isn’t a bash at triple threat Lee Jung-jae’s exceptional action thriller. It is a complement to his and co-writer Jo Seung-hae’s script that’s a marvel of plot, character, action, and politics so intricate that one is dazzled by how the script – let alone the film itself – kept multiple complex storylines not only afloat but clear in a way that most English Language Political thrillers have a hard time doing.
The film for all its complexities comes down to a singular through-line plot. That’s the hunt for a North Korean Mole codename Donglim. Donglim is seated at the very top of the KCIA (Korean Central Intelligence Agency). So high they’ve infiltrated that Foreign Unit chief Park Pyong-ho (Lee Jung-jae) and Domestic Unit chief Kim Jung-do (Jung Woo-sung) think are Donglim. What transpires is not just a John le Carré style spy hunt with all the sort of thrilling and intense character study that comes with that genre. But added into the mix is a hard-hitting action-based thriller that is as good as anything produced by the likes of Michael Mann, Tony Gilroy, or Paul Greengrass.
Primarily known by American audiences for his role in Squid Game as Seong Gi-hun, Lee Jung-jae continues to prove why he is one of the best creatives in South Korea. His work in Hunt from behind the camera is every bit the accomplishment that one can make with a feature film debut. There is a visual flair and understanding of story and momentum that rivals the contemporaries and legends of the political thriller. His work in tandem with Cinematographer Lee Mo-gae and Editor Kim Sang-bum is the kind of perfected well-oiled craftsmanship one expects from a team that’s been working together over many projects, not their first.
If one is looking for a well-written, thrilling, action film with intelligence and style to spare… Hunt delivers the goods and then some.