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Movie Review: Covertly, Grandly

It’s that mid-cycle lull in dramaland, aka the perfect time for that most honored of critical traditions: reviewing movies I’d been meaning to watch but hadn’t quite gotten around to yet. It’s a very strenuous decision-making process which involves me, a hat, and three or four recognizable movie names from the past year or so—culminating in this week’s completely random and totally-unbiased-toward-its-pretty-cast choice of Covertly, Grandly (also known as Secretly, Greatly).

It’s to no one’s surprise that Covertly, Grandly swept the domestic box office when that’s what it was made to do, though it did manage to surpass initial expectations by breaking the record for most tickets sold on its release date, an honor previously held by The Thieves—which consequently also starred ratings wonder and derpy-yet-adorable variety guest Kim Soo-hyun. I’m sensing a trend.

Based on a popular webtoon of the same name and touting itself as an action-comedy-drama, Covertly incorporates broad comedy, slick action, and a quirky premise into a popcorn flick with an identity crisis—the first half establishes a farcical and highly-stylized world where spies are seasoned slapstick fodder, while the latter half feels like a Very Serious Spy Movie with a fly-by-night political through line that can be boiled down simply: North Korea bad, South Korea good. Which is all fine and well until you ask, “And then?”

Note: For spoiler-y purposes, the ending has been separated into its own section which one can (ideally) avoid if one is so graciously inclined.

The premise: Three North Korean spies walk into a rural South Korean village. (I kid. But not really.) Their mission is to go undercover as sleeper cells while they wait for orders from the motherland, with their eventual goal aiming for the reunification of Korea.

This forces the three of them, all tough and hardened black ops agents, to take on varying personas ranging from village idiot to rockstar wannabe. The hijinks of the first half are funny enough on their own with tiny sprinklings of heart as our spy hero’s patriotic devotion wavers, all while he he grows fond of the villagers he’s come to know over time. The ones we end up meeting are well-realized characters with interesting backstories we only barely scratch the surface of. (I’d guess that they’re from the long-running source material, which is one of the many reasons why I couldn’t help but think that this would work way better as a drama.)

Then the title of the movie comes into play, as political tensions between North and South Korea reach a boiling point when the North is forced to give up their undercover spies. But instead of letting their best and brightest fall into enemy hands, the big bad North hands down a covert and grand mission of grave proportions to each of their agents—commit suicide with honor or be executed dishonorably. There is no middle ground.

We meet our hero, Captain Won Ryu-hwan (Kim Soo-hyun) as a super spy in the North just before he’s shipped to his assignment as an undercover citizen in the South. The inherent joke that comprises almost all of his early scenes is that he’s a certified genius fluent in five languages… yet his undercover persona is that of the village idiot replete with a bowl cut, a signature green tracksuit, and meticulously planned moments of public stupidity, like taking a pee in public every couple of weeks and a public poo every six months.

The name he adopts (and for ease of use, I’ll refer to him with it in this review) is BANG DONG-GU, which is infinitely less impressive than his real name. He’s loyal and patriotic almost to a fault, but it makes for some funny material as he interacts with the village he’s called home for the last two years while he waits for orders from his home country to arrive on his (wait for it!) pager.

He gets a few good fish out of water jokes, and one of my favorites comes when he’s narrating the circumstances of his day to day life which involves him squirreling money from working for a grumpy mother hen of an ajumma. In two years he’s managed to save a little over four thousand dollars, but to him, it’s like he’s won the lottery: “When I return to my hometown, I’ll be rich!”

We see his interactions with various townspeople, all of whom have taken to Dong-gu as one of their own. He’s got the girl he likes, the shop ajumma’s son (aka Dong-gu’s adoptive hyung), the shop ajumma (his adoptive mom), and a friend in the town’s prettiest girl who knows she can flash a little cleavage to get Dong-gu to give her free cigarettes.

There’s a good deal of townspeople introduced, and despite the fact that this is a movie and the time spent on them is finite, there are a few standouts in the cast. The pretty girl mentioned above, RAN (Lee Chae-young), makes an impression when she reveals her darkest secret to Dong-gu during a drunken confession, which paves the way for some nice follow-through as far as the plot is concerned by the end. In short: I liked her role as much as I liked the time spent on the townspeople, and wish this had been a drama instead (I know, again) so the exploration of their stories and Dong-gu’s change of heart because of them could’ve been better explored. Alas.

Another spy arrives in Dong-gu’s village to shake things up in the form of LEE HAE-RANG (Park Ki-woong), a high-ranking official’s son who doesn’t have to work, but has chosen to become a spy due to his competitive spirit. He cockily assures Dong-gu that he’ll be the one to succeed between them, which rubs Dong-gu so wrong that he follows Hae-rang the next day, determined to see what Hae-rang is doing soooo right.

Not only does he follow Hae-rang into an audition, he gets to watch as his competition takes the stage with the most assured of airs… only for Hae-rang to suck so badly at guitar that he can only manage to play the scales before he flashes the universal signal that he’s ready to rock. The fact that he does all this with a straight face is hilarious, especially since he stews about his failure with Dong-gu later, all shocked that the rock-n-roll training he got in North Korea is nowhere near the level of his more talented southern counterparts. Ha.

The middle portion of the movie slows down considerably as we see talking heads debate the future of politics that really don’t mean all that much to the story at hand—other than that they’re the catalyst for that most covert and grand of orders. Dong-gu is flawless at keeping his cover even as he starts to grow a heart, one which is tested when one of his older comrades asks for his help in obtaining a gun so he kill a few South Korean officials to save his captured family. Dong-gu remains loyal to his country and refuses to help him.

As he’s stopping his comrade-ajusshi from assassinating officials, our third spy, RI HAE-JIN (Lee Hyun-woo), is introduced as he’s assassinating officials. He doesn’t manage to assassinate a team leader of the National Intelligence Service—one who’s featured prominently in this story due to his inexplicable bleeding heart and his desire (nay, compulsion!) to save the North Korean spies from the suicide order. Why? Because the script told him to.

Out of the three spies, Hae-jin is the youngest and most gung-ho about serving his country, which makes him more dangerous because he’s used to killing people to solve problems. Dong-gu’s goal is to get him to not do that without seeming like he’s going against orders (mostly he wants to protect the townspeople he’s come to know), and he’s able to control Hae-jin’s impulses because the two go way back to Hae-jin’s training days, where Hae-jin learned to worship the very ground Dong-gu stands on.

I do think it must have been intentional to portray Hae-jin’s hero worship of Dong-gu with an almost homoerotic undertone, since the two share moments of skinship which affect Hae-jin more deeply than they should. Call me crazy, but it even seems like Dong-gu knows this to some degree and uses that knowledge to manipulate Hae-jin into not killing him or others, since Hae-jin is able to be swayed even if Dong-gu just shares his hat with him. It’s not played overtly, which is about the only thing in this movie that can claim anything close to subtlety, but it’s at least interesting.

The time the three musketeers spend among the townspeople is all too short and fails to impart a true sense of meaning to their relationships with each other as well as others, making this middle stretch seem interminably long. I’ll be honest in saying that Dong-gu failed to grab me emotionally, though I don’t think the fault rests solely with him. Hae-rang remained too vague, and while Hae-jin did a lot with the time he had, he just didn’t have enough of it.

Then comes the suicide order, and our boys’ reaction to it. Everyone reacts a little differently but, like sane people, none of them are keen on carrying out the mission. Their will to survive (save for Hae-jin, who’d rather be loyal to his country but is unable to shake off his loyalty to Dong-gu) is what carries the film into its drawn-out finale, which is basically one long battle sequence.

It’s neat from an action perspective, since it’s all shot quite well—nothing exceptional, but fine and well. We’re re-introduced to Dong-gu’s training commander, a scar-faced and criminally underused Sohn Hyun-joo, as he arrives in South Korea to carry out executions should any agent fail to kill themselves. He’s mostly just another commodity for this film to use, but at least he moves some plot along.

So, high stakes? Check. Even with those rocketing sky-high, without an emotional through line to tie us to the core characters or their admittedly-sometimes-relatable conflict (Dong-gu loves his mom so that should be universal, right? Right?), so much of this film just started to wash over me. I was starting to wonder whether I’d accidentally zoned out and missed the part where the rogue NIS agent gave a solid reason for his one man mission, or why some of the reveals meant so little, or which story I was supposed to be rooting for. Even with the suicide mission thrown in, the premise is pretty cut-and-dry—our three spies maybe don’t want to kill themselves. Simple, right?

Wrong. So wrong. I can’t get after this movie for not being the summer blockbuster I thought it was, but even without that, it’s just not all that good. The sheen is there, the acting talent is there, and it’s all pretty to look at in a mildly entertaining way. Characters behave exactly as you’d expect them to without any deviations. Those who were supposed to elicit sympathy really didn’t, those who were supposed to elicit scorn had scars on their faces or Nefarious Eyeglasses, only they didn’t have enough character depth to make us care, which means that so much that was meant to resonate just… didn’t.

That’s as simple and blunt a way as I can put it, and I’m not a huge fan of being so coarse when a movie like this seems harmless enough—it’s just that I really wanted to care (since that would’ve made this movie’s run time and subsequent review so much easier), but the story was just too unfocused and everywhere-at-once to allow me to fully invest. Funny thing, emotional resonance. You just can’t take that for granted these days.

THE ENDING

I made a separate section in A Werewolf Boy’s review for the ending because I loved it and couldn’t write a review without sharing it. I feel the exact opposite way about Covertly, Grandly’s ending, helped in no part because I really, really, really didn’t like it.

Here’s a not-so-condensed version of what happens: With a snazzy new haircut, Dong-gu bids adieu to the townspeople he’s come to know and love, fully expecting to be killed by his former commander. He’s mostly come to love his adoptive mother because he misses his real mom, the mom he’s been writing daily letters to for two years while being unable to send them. (It’s worth noting, however, that while Dong-gu can’t send even one letter across the border, agents like Hae-rang, Hae-jin, and Dong-gu’s commander must have discovered a toll-free super highway between North and South Korea.)

Dong-gu thinks that giving himself up to the north might save his mother, only to be told by his commander that his mother is likely dead, therefore negating any purpose Dong-gu had to follow orders. Or live. He fights for his life side by side with Hae-rang while Hae-jin weasels his way out of captivity with the NIS, an event I didn’t describe because Hae-jin does what Hae-jin does by protecting Dong-gu and gets captured for it. Then he makes his escape to protect Dong-gu.

Hae-jin’s character felt the most emotionally realized, especially near the end when he makes his last stand. Caring about Dong-gu doesn’t mean Hae-jin has to change who he is, and he doesn’t by the end of the film—he’s still like a brainwashed kid, unable to let go of his patriotic duty to follow orders. Dong-gu and Hae-rang make a dramatic stand in the rain to fight for their lives and each other, and are technically saved by Hae-jin when he arrives with the NIS.

Dong-gu’s commander wields a grenade in his last-ditch attempt to take the three musketeers to hell with him, but Hae-rang saves them by throwing himself and the commander off the roof before the grenade can explode. He dies, and while it was expected to see Dong-gu react to his death, Hae-jin’s reaction is more surprising. He even tries to shake Dong-gu out of his emotional coma by reminding him that Hae-rang just died to save them, all while he offers to hold off the NIS as a human shield so Dong-gu can escape.

But, Dong-gu would rather cry over what’s passed and the life he misses, dooming Hae-jin to become target practice for the NIS (he wouldn’t have surrendered anyway). In a futile effort to protect Hae-jin long after it’s necessary, Dong-gu uses his body to protect Hae-jin from gunfire, taking about ninety-seven shots before he makes a split-second decision to throw them both off the rooftop to their deaths. The end. Except Dong-gu’s adoptive mom finds a note he left her (“Don’t get sick!”) which could leave the possibility that Dong-gu might’ve survived, but I’m sticking with the mentality that no matter how silly this movie was, it’s wasn’t that silly.

With that out of the way, I can now say that this ending served as the nail in the coffin that was Covertly, Grandly. Tragic endings can be a powerful storytelling tool when used correctly, but more often than not (as any drama viewer can attest) they’re used very incorrectly, and that’s when we feel cheated. The ending can’t take the blame for the lack of fun in this film, but as the camera focused on the three dead leads I wondered, “Okay, so, what was the point?”

I’ve still got nothing.

NOT THE ENDING

Covertly, Grandly is a mildly funny film in its first half before it veers into serious dramatic territory, where it lacks the necessary heft to help shoulder such a suddenly heavy load. Ultimately forgettable despite all its untapped potential, Covertly is the rare kind of film that’s neither all that bad or good, and is just unremarkable enough to be called okay. 6/10.

 
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I liked it.

It was 'The Thieves' with a total imbalance of tone that gave me severe whiplash. 'Thieves' was half fun (Ocean's style), then they dropped the atomic serious bomb halfway through. "Like, what? Macao Park is doing it for daddy vengeance?"

At least in this film, I could tell from the start that the underlying tone was serious/intense/real, so it readied me for the action and outcome.

Me thinks Haejin could be alive still. He was all swatted up with bullet proof vest and all, after all, and Ryu-hwan made it a point to throw his body first so Haejin could fall on top of him. I know the height of the building debunks my hope that at least young Haejin could've survived, but meh. I'm still going to think... maybe?

I enjoyed it. It felt like a speedy enough watch and the dudes were fantastic together. =D

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Yeah, not a funny movie. Watched it last week, and the ending did nothing but make me cry.

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I actually really liked this movie. The ending was definitely sad and something I didn't expect but still after the tears it was the logical thing.

The movie shows how the boys were absorbed by their fake personalities but still unable to let go of their mission. Just when they felt comfortable and part of that world reality came back and claimed for their lives, they all wanted to protect something like their moms, heroes and honor so they couldn't let go just like that. At the end they realize their lives changed while being there like Park Ki Woong's character passes the audition but he is already in the middle of a fight or when Soo Hyun's character discovers that the country he wanted to protect betrayed him in such a way that made him realize he lost everything, including his loyalty and his mother, so when Ki Woong's character dies he is left completely alone knowing there is no way for him to go back to his soldier life, to get a new one back or even return to be the village idiot. By seeing the bank book his South mother gave him he realized that while he was away from his biological mother he found a new one who took care of him as a son. I really loved how at the end the 3 were together and a clip of their past came back while they were talking about the lives they would have wanted and how they weren't able to get them. I think the message left behind the photo was before the tragedy as a way to console his mother in case something happened.

It is sad, tragic and sad and tragic but still loved it. I think it has a mixed message that you can change if you want to but you also have to responsible for the things you do and the people around you before and after the change.

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here is what i loved about this movie (contains spoilers, look-out!)

.the pretty boys

# Kim Soo-hyun aka Captain Won Ryu-hwan aka Dong-Gu : a nork korean spy acting as the village idiot

Portrait of captain :

good looking & attractive even in a green
tracksuit,great abs
fun: his antics as a village idiot slayed me
low point: getting caught pooping on street by the girl he has a crush on

qualities & shortcomings:

awesome fighting skills : he can crack bones at the speed of light, and fly/jump from roof to roof like the best of them

empathetic & protective
manipulative

# Park Ki-Woong aka Lee Hae Rang:
a north korean high official's son, his spy mission to become a rock star

Portait of a devil-may-care spy that is Hae Rang

qualitites & flaws:

orange hair
cannot play the guitar
great fighter

seemingly jaded, sometimes looks quite unhinged, (especially when he smiles his strange unhappy smiles)

can't be bothered most of the time, that is, he displays no noble sentiment about his mission as spy, no glimmer of
(misplaced) patriotism or calculated heroism like Dong Gu (protectmy mom and I'll protect the country to the best of
my killing abilities)

side not: As it turns out he is a hero except he'd never admit to it, it goes against his persona

# Lee Hyun Woo aka Ri Hae Jin aka cutie pie north korean spy

Qualities & flaws

zero empathy or complete detachment(has no qualms about killing) except for his captain who he worships, which
brings me to the next point

his feelings for his captain Won Ryu-hwan, is it hero worshiping or brotherly love? does he want a bit of a cuddle? ( i know i won't mind).
Personally i think it is a mixture of all that;
in that little dark alley he looked troubled (perhaps touched) when his hyung hugged him closely, protectively (anyways thanks for that, i lived that moment vicariously through our cute killer Hae jin, i was a bit giddy too :)

Anyways our darling hae jin is simply touched by his hyung affection, who i think uses it knowingly to manipulate him
into doing what he wants, that beanie/hat moment, the way his fingers move and linger while he was putting his hat on hae jin's head was a homoerotic moment if i ever saw one,not that I'm complaining ( i enjoyed it fully and realized that our captain had a sly side to him too, no wonder he is a genius who speaks 5 languages, i'd add one more to the list: body language, pwahaha)

overall:

the film was fun and zanny
fighting scenes were satisfying

the plot was so full of holes, it made cheddar cheese look like concrete.

some (well most of the) characters needed more development

the NIS characters were like mold growing over the walls of this film, my recommendation is simple : eradication

visually the small village was a winner, it was picturesque especially at night, i think i understood dong gu's attachment to it and its villagers

conclusion : a good watch, this noona enjoyed it very much

digression and major spoiler:

I could have cried a lot except the last shooting scene was the last straw for this perverted noona, it took me right out of the sadness

when captain shielded our cute hae jin from the hurling bullets (though our puppy killer had already been shot enough to be walking the last step into the netherworld) and his back got shot mercilessly, seeing hae jin's expression, the whole scene where it looks like they were both getting shot together was something else (some of you probably think i'm some twisted girl, just rewatch the scene and get back to me).

final note:

Kim Soo-Hyun, Hyun-ah ... saranghae!!!

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No, don't feel alone, you were not the only one that got the whole shooting death scene as part of the homo-eroticism in the film.

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Thank you for the review! I was so ready to love this movie, and the characters of the three main actors (whom I adore) but the ending was so confusing! It might have made a good series though...

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I watched this today after seeing that Heads is doing a review on this and tbh I've anticipated this for a while. I didn't read the review because I didn't want to spoil myself (but your review is quite spoiler-free) and as it hit the second half, I kept thinking to myself "isn't this supposed to be a comedy/light-hearted movie??". I quite enjoyed the first-half although the comedy is far from subtle and there are too many potty humor (and alas I watched this while having my lunch), but as it's drawing to its end I kept thinking "wth is happening, I didn't sign up for this, why does everyone die, what is the meaning of all this?". The relationship between Dong Gu's adoptive mother and him did manage to wrung some tears from me (damn you, deposit book!), but just like you I kept wondering what is the point of the story at the end...

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I bought the dvd the other day, full of anticipation, and for the most part of it I was quite entertained... But the ending...... all I had in my eyes was tears, and in my mind was WHYYYYY.....

What a terrible waste... But they want to drive home the message, of a waste of life, they certainly did it...

I wasn't expecting such a heavy ending to what was supposed to be a 'comedy' so I was quite blindsided...

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*Spoilers in the whole post*

I may be among the minority here, but I did enjoy the film, despite its flaws. I know that a lot of Korean films tend to have dissonant tones in their first and second halves, but I did not think that the contrast was as strong in this particular film. Yes, there were comical moments, but I would not say that we were presented with a comedy in one half and a poorly-written drama in the second half. I think that there were deeper undertones even in the first half.

I do agree that this story would have benefited from being told in a different format, namely a drama. Perhaps a sixteen-episode drama, with no added filer, but plenty of episodes to develop back stories and establish the separate motivations of all the characters (but please no love triangles or squares, lol). Did I miss something, or was the 'mission' of our three agents never explained? I know that they were waiting for contact from their superiors, but not even the barest outline of a mission was laid out. Maybe we could have been given some context, for example, for why Haerang had to become an idol, lol.

I also agree that our villains looked a little too 1-dimensional. It was enough for big bad to have a gaping scar on his face, did he need to have a black eye as well?

As I was watching the film, I kept wondering if Ryuhwan's (aka, Donggu) mom was already dead. Maybe I read too much into his writing letters that he never actually sent but kept under a floor mat. I also never thought that he was secretly alive at the end, although some comments on other sites suggest that people thought his being alive was a possibility. The message on the wall could have been written earlier.

I did not see surrendering as a reality for our agents. What would have happened to them? While Donggu grew attached to his fellow villagers, he was still a product of indoctrination. Would he have been allowed to live freely, or forced into another life not of his own making? I did liked the moment when the three agents spoke about their hopes and wishes (was that a dream sequence? An afterlife scene?). Donggu wished that he could simply be allowed to live...a normal life. So did Haerang. It was telling that Haejin wanted to come back as a commander (an "unusual commander, according to one translation; I'm not sure if that's correct). He wanted to live, but blending in with South Korean society was not part of that dream.

Long story short: I liked the movie but felt that it could have been more developed and given more 'heart' if it had been adapted into a drama. I also think that our three leads are extremely talented (I love you Park Kiwoong, and will miss you when you go off to army duty :( ).

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I agree with your assessment of the film. And yes, I too will miss Park Kiwoong oppa :(

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I agree with others who suggested that this film would've been better as a drama. A drama (if done well) could've explored the backgrounds of the three leads and explain what their mission was (I'm still not clear on this point).

Why was Lee Hae-Rang sent to South Korea as an under cover would be rock star? If he has managed to become successful in this mission, could it still be considered 'under cover?' What were Lee Hae-rang's motivations for taking on this mission? What was he TRULY fighting for? Country? Family? I would really love to know this.

I cannot help but feel for Ri Hae-Jin, a young man who from an early age was abused and corrupted by the country he'd been raised o serve and obey without question. He is the most brainwashed of the three. The young man whom I believe was beyond saving. I would've loved to have learned more about his background.

Last (but certainly not least), Dong-gu. My heart broke for him when he breaks down and sobs that all he wants is to return home and live peacefully with his mom. At the end, his desire was simply and yet profound. His time spent with the villagers had taught him to value what many of us take for granted.

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i watched the first half of this movie (which i liked), then slept, and woke up just in time to watch the ending..

Hae Jin was the only reason i cared watching the ending..

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This is why I am a dedicated dramabeans fan ! I would not watch this movie, even it someone else paid for the ticket.
thank you - thank you

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I watched it last night and didn't read the review till this morning, so my view of this movie is not tainted by some reviews or spoilers. I really enjoyed the first part of the movie. Funny and heartwarming. I almost closed it to be watched later, but I didn't and in the end, I cursed myself or rather the movie.

I really don't get the NIS trying to save the 3. I really like though the dark clouds background while they were fighting at the building's roof top.

Park Ki woong's doremifasolatido guitar piece and rock sign is a winner!

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Hi, I have a different take on this movie here: http://ne-koi.livejournal.com/591013.html

"At this point, it doesn't matter that they are spies from across the borders. It doesn't matter that the North is 'bad' and the South is 'good'. The point is that they were thrown away by the one who fed them, brought them up, trained them and gave them a purpose in their lives."

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Okay at first I liked it. Even though everyone thought it was a waste of time, I watched it. And I enjoyed it even when it suddenly became an action movie. There was quite a few plot holes but nevertheless it was enjoyable to watch.

However, the moment Shunji jumped off with that guy, I seriously just stopped caring about the rest of the characters. And even then I believed Dong Gu and Hyun Woo would live. Then they both get shot fifty times and fall off. Okay tbh, I cried at the "what do you want to be in your next life" flashback. Then the movie showed us the frame and the "Don't get sick" and then it ended and I was like WTF? Is that it?

I really liked this movie and the ending wasn't that bad but did they really have to kill everyone? I just don't get it. I can think of a number of ways that the movie could have ended with everyone alive and happy. The ending just seemed like a deus ex machinima to get everything settled.

TL;DR Good movie, confusing ending.

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I totally agree with you! I juz can't actually understand the whole thing....but all I could say is.....the ending was awesome!it made me cry a river which I never did before in my damn whole damn life.actually the reason I watch this film is juz to see lee hyun woo, but he only appeared such lee times, so it made me 100% disappointed

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where to watch this? can't find it anywhere with english subs! :'(

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I just want to share with you some of my thoughts (and especially what I like, why it works for me) about Covertly, Grandly, given that most of you didn't like the movie.

I first watched it for Kim Soo-hyun, who I loved in his other (drama) projects. I had just read here or somewhere the dichotomy between the first and the second part of the movie, so I had no expectation regarding what I wanted to see or thought it would be. And now that I've watched it, I really like it for what it is.

I love the first part of the movie for its refreshing atmosphere, the comedy, Dong-gu's slice of life and his voice-over describing the other characters. I thought the introduction of each character was well-done, highlighting each one of them.
As for the second part, the action scenes were produced well and I was really moved by Dong-gu's farewells and how the movie ends.

Unlike many of you, I didn't feel the gap of tone between the two parts. I was convinced by the way it has been managed, and I do love when they mix genres - I think Koreans do that pretty well.

As some of you said, I believe the message delivered by Covertly, Grandly is that a "usual life" is not as usual for everyone in this world, that there is people who can barely dream of it or don't even have the right to dream it at all. At the end, I felt like a lot of young North Koreans lose their life for nothing (I have already known that before, but what I mean is the movie succeeded in making me feel this way). I don't think the author intended to depict the South as 'good' and the North as 'bad'. For instance, in the end, Dong-gu said he dreams to live in a usual "nation", just in a country where he can live happily with his mother, he didn't mention South Korea. The point is not about the opposition North/South. The story is just about a guy who learned to live in a way that his sense of honor and his trust for his nation alienates him.

Despite the flows that were already mentioned, Covertly, Grandly was a pleasant watch for me.

Thanks for the review!

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Okay. I agree with everyone that the ending was really disappointing and the 2nd half was really confusing but I don't really think it was a waste of time to watch it. This movie was based on the comic and it's exactly the same especially for the ending. It's called 'based on the comic' movie so they have to stick with the ending. The actors were really great especially Kim Soo Hyun which have to portrait 2 kinds of character and Lee Hyun Woo who really did his best to act out his character which stands as an important role in this. With no romance subside in this movie, the friendship has to play they role which the actors did an amazing job given the time limits. Even with a tragic ending, they still manage to bring that sense of happiness that Kim Soo Hyun accepted his adopted mum's love and is showing the same love towards her and the rest of the townfolks. They gave us a chance to look at the conditions of the people after Kim Soo Hyun left them and the feeling is there to make us feel satisfied unlike some movies that ended only with the after story of the mains leaving behind those supporting characters. It is disappointing yet satisfying to me given the circumstances :)

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Actually, I liked the movie, so I think I'm part of the minority crowd here.

Sure, there was lots of stuff I didn't like:
- the ending
- the pace

But I enjoyed the acting and bromance between the three soldiers. I was crying so hard at the end. Never cried harder for a movie or drama except SUFBB. The fact that Dong Gu changed lives in a neighborhood, and that they all seemed to be affected by him even after him leaving.

Yeah but overall I'd still give it a 6.5/10.

BUT despite my low ranking for it, I still enjoyed watching it.

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Can I download this movie.. ?

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I liked this movie.

I did not read any details about this movie except the fact Kim Soo Hyun was in it and that the movie was popular. I did not know what genre it was. I just jumped in.

The change of tone didn't bother me. I knew from the start that these guys were on a spy mission that cannot be quiet and secretive for long.

The movie only gave a glimpse into the relationship between the 3 spies. It needed more development/screen time. But Ryu Hwan embracing Hae Jin still brought me to tears.

The ending was sad, but realistic. So I'm ok with it. Overall, I'm glad I watched this movie. It wasn't a waste to me.

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exactly what i thought. the story would've been better as a drama. the three spies are supposed to have this brotherly bond as shown in their final hours, but there were really just a few scenes of them really joking around. but tbh, if this is a drama, i think i will die from all the crying. the part where soo hyun cried saying he wants to go back was enough to break my heart. if they had flashback-ed a whole drama worth of his life in the village and him crying, i'd go insane crying. on a side note, how great are his foster family? the mother and brother, they're such amazing kind-hearted people for earnestly loving him even though he is an adopted person (very rare in k-drama/k-movie land). i liked the movie, just really wished it wasn't so sad.

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I liked it.

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Years later and this movie is still loved, talked about, and watched... guess that means your review of "forgettable" was utterly wrong. I'm all for movie review, but I hate ones that just criticize based on personal tastes and not actually criteria for what makes a good film. I just find it funny that years ago, this film was criticized (only by international audiences) for being genre-bending, but this year, everyone loves "parasite" for its genre-bending (among other things of course). Korean movies have NEVER stuck to one genre. Korea knows this- why did it take so long for international audiences to find it out. One of the best things about Korean films is that it includes comedy, drama, crime, action, etc. Why? Because it's telling a story. And no one's life is just one genre of storytelling. Even tragic lives have their moments of comic relief. Korean filmmakers have understood this fact for years and realized it's what makes characters feel human and audiences feel connected. But it's taken until Parasite for intl audiences to evidently realize that "hey! life is often not black and white. not everyone is a do-gooder type hero and not every villain is a black hearted knave. And life is not all sad and not all good either. Everyone has a little bit of everything in their lives." That's why Korean cinema has been excelling for years, while going underrated and underappreciated by intl audiences AND critics.

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