Film Review: Golden Slumber

A fast-paced, Jason Bourne-like Korean thriller, given depth by its theme of friendship.
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The industrious, model-citizen life of Seoul courier Gun-woo (Gang Dong-won), who once even saved a K-pop star’s life, is upended when he witnesses the assassination of a presidential candidate in a bombing incident. It turns out that the man responsible for this act is his old buddy Moo-yeol (Yoon Kye-sang), who has just resurfaced in his life.

However, there’s a conspiracy afoot, as all the evidence—security-camera footage, witness testimony and even fingerprints—point to Gun-woo as the culprit, thereby necessitating a breathless dash from harm’s way on his part. His one real ally in all of this is Mr. Min (Kim Eui-sung), another friend of Moo-yeol, who does his damnedest to clear Gun-woo’s name. Meanwhile, three other good pals (Han Hyo-ju, Kim Seong-gyoon and Kim Dae-myung) unfortunately find themselves endangered as well. 

Did I say “breathless”? In the case of this Korean thriller from director Noh Dong-seok, that would be a decided understatement, as its attractive Everyman star is put through every physical pace imaginable in his desperate flight. Yoshihiro Nakamura filmed this same tale, based on a popular Japanese novel by Isaka Kôtarô, in 2010, and it was the always socially conscious Gang who proposed this remake, its Jason Bourne-esque elements making it a natural for ever-timely international delectation. Crackerjack editing and crisp photography—hallmarks of modern Korean cinema—distinguish this ultra-streamlined entertainment, which also manages to say a few vital things about the nature of trust in today’s world.

Music figures prominently, addressing the film’s major theme of the nostalgia in old friendships, as exemplified by the Beatles song that gives this film its title, recorded during that group’s final days. A new K-pop version by current Korean sensations Lee Hi and Kang Seung-yoon figures on the soundtrack, along with the evocative sounds of the late Shin Hae-chul, also redolent of deep comradeship.

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