Hello everyone and welcome back to another content by EonTalk! Today I’ve prepared a post on the Best Movies of the First Half of 2021.
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Can you believe we’re already passed the halfway mark of the year?! It’s crazy how fast time has been passing by, and I sincerely do hope the world recovers to normalcy soon with the whole pandemic. There are a lot of amazing-looking K-movies upcoming in the latter half of 2021, but before we anticipate what’s to come, let’s take a look back and appreciate the Korean films that have been released thus far.
I’ll be going over all the movies that I watched that were released in 2021, and ranking them from the worst to the best. I’ve watched a total of 12 movies that were released from January to June 2021, and I’ll link the reviews to the movies if you want to check out the full reviews. I’ll just be giving a brief explanation and review of the movies in this post. Please remember, this list will be based on my personal preferences, and are totally biased towards my opinions. That being said, let’s get into the list of the movies that released this year so far, and how good they were.
Starting off the list, the #12 movie of the first half of 2021 was the action comedy that released in February, <Mission: Possible>.
Directed by the first time director Kim Hyung-Ju, <Mission: Possible> starred the duo of Kim Young-Kwang and Lee Sun-Bin as the two main leads. The movie is a mixture of a secret agent/spy movie with action and comedy, and revolves around an inexperienced secret agent having to go on a highly dangerous mission with a strange man. The synopsis is as follows:
‘Woo Soo-Han’ is the owner of a private detective agency that would do anything for money. One day, a secret agent that goes by ‘Yoo Da-Hee’ shows up and offers him $10,000 to go on a mission with her. The mission? To resolve an arms-trafficking case. The two completely opposite agents begin the case, but as they progress further and further into it, situations get more and more out of hand. From leaving traces behind for the authorities, to getting framed as criminals, the secret mission to stop arms trafficking in Korea begins!
Overall, <Mission: Possible> was a very light movie. It reminded me of films like <The Soul-Mate>, <Extreme Job>, and <OK! Madam>, other Korean action-comedies. The movie has very over-the-top comedy, but as you watch, you get used to the exaggerated comedy, and once you get used to it, it becomes enjoyable. And if you are the type of person that enjoys this type of comedy to begin with, then you’ll have an enjoyable time anyways! I gave the film a Ticket Price Value of $8
Next, the #11 movie is the drama film that was also released in February of this year, titled <Double Patty>.
<Double Patty> was directed by Baek Seung-Hwan, and starred the leads Shin Seung-Ho and Irene of Red Velvet. Contrary to its title, the movie isn’t only about food (although it does have a lot of diverse dishes), but revolves around two different individuals who lived two completely different lives, meeting and getting involved in each other’s lives. The detailed synopsis is as follows:
A girl, Hyun-Ji, who aspires to be an anchorwoman, and a boy, Woo-Ram, who wrestles and has big dreams. These two meet coincidentally when Woo-Ram goes to a burger joint Hyun-Ji is working at. And there, Woo-Ram falls for Hyun-Ji the moment he sees her. The two don’t have anything in common, except that they both face their own hardships that they must overcome. In that common ground, they find hope and encouragement in each other.
<Double Patty> was a good light watch, and definitely something you need to watch if you are a fan of Irene, Red Velvet, or just K-pop in general. It’s great to see more idols getting the opportunity to give acting a go. As for the movie itself, it had elements to be good, but I can’t say it executed to its full potential. I personally think it would’ve been better as a K-drama, as it tries to go over too many topics and stories that just doesn’t work under two hours, and so it felt all over the place. It’s not bad, but it’s also not something you need to watch in theaters. If it becomes available on Netflix or other streaming services, I’d definitely recommend giving it a go. I gave <Double Patty> a Ticket Price Value of $8.
The #10 movie is the mystery thriller that released in April, <Recalled>.
Directed by Seo Yoo-Min, <Recalled> featured the leads Seo Yea-Ji and Kim Kang-Woo. The synopsis of <Recalled> is as follows:
Soo-Jin wakes up after a bad accident, not able to remember anything. Next to her is her husband, Ji-Hoon, who’s very caring and understanding. Once she’s released from the hospital and moves back into her home with her husband, she starts to get sudden flashes of memories. She first thinks these are flashbacks of her remembering her past, but it’s actually indeed flashes of the future. Soo-Jin is understandably very unstable and her husband does whatever he can to calm her down and get her to a stable condition, but the flashes continue. However, she runs into an old acquaintance on the streets and learns of something very surprising of her husband. With her not being able to remember her past, and her learning of new things of the present and her life prior to the accident, Soo-Jin starts to unravel mysterious truths about her life.
<Recalled> was a mystery-thriller that had lots of twists and moments of suspense. If you know me, you know I love Korean mystery thrillers, as I personally think Korean cinema is amongst the best when it comes to the genre. I can’t say that <Recalled> was a must-watch, as I thought it didn’t really have anything new compared to typical thriller mysteries, and there were lots of holes to the story, but I still had a really good time watching it. Definitely worth the time watching if it’s available near you, or on streaming services. The Ticket Price Value I gave for <Recalled> was also $8.
The #9 movie is a movie that was delayed and released in time for the Lunar New Year, <New Year Blues>.
This melodrama was directed by Hong Ki-Young, and was originally supposed to release on New Years Eve of 2020, which would’ve been a perfect timing for this film, but was delayed to February of this year. <New Year Blues> starred the likes of Kim Kang-Woo, Yoo In-Na, Yoo Yeon-Seok, Lee Yeon-Hee, Lee Dong-Hwi, Duling Chen, Yeom Hye-Ran, Sooyoung of Girls’ Generation, and Yoo Tae-Oh, a very solid cast lineup, and is about 4 different couples going through different life events prior to the start of the new year. The detailed synopsis of <New Year Blues> is as follows:
‘Ji-Ho,’ a fourth-year divorcee detective who’s in charge of a personal protection program, and ‘Hyo-Young,’ a perfectionist health trainer who’s the person receiving the personal protection with an ongoing divorce suit.
‘Jin-Ah, a contract worker at a ski resort who leaves for Argentina after being dumped by her boyfriend, and ‘Jae-Heon’, a local wine delivery man in Argentina who fled to the country after being burnt out by reality.
‘Yao Lin,’ a soon-to-be bride that moved to Korea from China ahead of her marriage to ‘Yong-Chan,’ the head of a travel agency who was robbed of his wedding funds. And his sister, ‘Yong-Mi,’ who’s upset about losing her only brother after the marriage.
‘Rae-Hwan,’ a Paralympic national team member who feels sorry towards his girlfriend due to the prejudice of the world, and ‘Oh-Wol,’ who believes there shouldn’t be biases when it comes to loving someone.
The stories of these 4 couples, who all face their own difficulties, leading to the new year begins.
<New Year Blues> is a very feel-good vibes type of movie, and good for a light watch. The movie is on the cheesy, cringe side, but if you embrace that, I think it’s a pretty enjoyable film and you’ll find yourself cheesin’ it every here and there. Thus, go into it without much expectation, which I understand is hard to do knowing the cast members, but you’ll have a much more enjoyable time if you do so. I gave the film a TPV of $10.
Movie along, the 8th film of the movies of the first half of 2021 is the action thriller that released last month, <Hard Hit>.
This movie was directed by Kim Chang-Ju, and starred the leads Cho Woo-Jin, Lee Jae-In, Jin Kyung, and Ji Chang-Wook. The film was based on the Spanish movie <Retribution>, and in its first week of release, it retained the #1 spot at the box office, and actually recorded to be the highest selling thus far in 2021. The synopsis is as follows:
Sung-Kyu, the head of a bank, receives a call from an unknown number on his way to work with his kids in the car. The mysterious voice warns that there is a bomb in the car, and that it’ll explode if he gets up. Sung-Kyu assumes the call is a voice phishing scam and doesn’t think much of it, until he soon witnesses his colleague’s car exploding in front of his eyes. Reality hits him, and he suddenly becomes the suspect in downtown Busan, with the police chasing him down. Unable to get out, hang up, or say anything to the authorities, Sung-Kyu must keep the unknown caller happy, and save his and his children’s lives.
Overall, I thought <Hard Hit> was really good for the first hour. There were lots of suspenseful moments and got really, really thrilling. It had some of the best action and suspense, but after about an hour in, I have to admit that it got a little loose. Not to mention, there were forced emotions as it progressed further into the story. But with the limited action and thriller films we’ve had out of Korea, or I should say good ones, then this is up there in relative terms. It’s also worth mentioning that the acting was great by the cast in this. I gave <Hard Hit> a Ticket Price Value of $10.
The #7 film was the April-released action SF, <Seobok>.
Directed by Lee Yong-Ju, <Seobok> featured the leads Gong Yoo and Park Bo-Gum. Just having these two A-listers in a single movie had immense ticket power, and adding genre elements of sci-fi and action enhanced that effect even greater. <Seobok> was another film that was originally supposed to come out last December but was delayed, and made a simultaneous release in theaters as well as the Korean streaming service, TVing.
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Getting back to the review, the synopsis of <Seobok> is as follows:
“Ki-Hun” is a former special intelligence agent who quit his job and cut himself from the outside world after a traumatic event. One day, he suddenly receives an offer from the intelligence agency that he can not refuse. His mission is to safely transfer ‘Seobok,’ a highly confidential test subject made from stem cell cloning and genetic manipulation. However, they are suddenly bombarded mid-transfer, and Seobok, who spent his entire life inside the test laboratory, is intrigued by everything in the outside world, and Ki-Hun just wants to hurriedly complete his mission. And as the two set off on a special journey together, there are various organizations coming after the highly classified Seobok.
All in all, I thought <Seobok> was an entertaining sci-fi, action flick, and having the two main leads of Gong Yoo and Park Bo-Gum made it that much more enjoyable. If you like movies such as <The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion>, I highly recommend watching this. Sure, there were parts about the movie that was pretty predictable, but it still was an enjoyable journey, and as long as you don’t have too high of an expectation, I think you’ll have a good time watching this. The Ticket Price Value of <Seobok> was $10.
Going into the #6 spot, the #6 movie goes to another great sci-fi film, being released in February, titled <Space Sweepers>.
<Space Sweepers> was directed by Cho Sung-Hee, and was a new endeavor in terms of genre for Korean cinema: Space opera. Having an all-star cast of Song Koong-Ki, Kim Tae-Ri, Jin Sun-Kyu, and Yoo Hae-Jin, <Space Sweepers> was yet another film that was delayed from 2020. The synopsis is as follows:
In the year 2092, Earth becomes nearly uninhabitable, and a major corporation called UTS builds a new orbiting home for humanity in space. However, not everyone can flee the sick Earth, and only a chosen few can venture out into their new homes. In the spaceship known as “The Victory,” the crew of Tae-Ho, Captain Jang, Tiger Park, and Robot Bubs collect space junk, but they unexpectedly discover a humanoid child robot named Dorothy, who’s known to be a weapon of mass destruction. In order to pay off their debts and fulfill their desires, the crew members decide to partake in a risky deal to send off Dorothy. However, they find themselves in much more complicated situations than they had originally thought.
Overall, <Space Sweepers> was a good, fun watch. No, the story wasn’t anything mind-blowing, but for sure the CGI and effects were. You can tell they invested a lot in the VFX, as the movie had one of the best CGIs in Korean films, and I really enjoyed the visuals the movie had and was ultimately satisfied. And the fact that it’s available on Netflix is a big reason as to why you should give this a go. I gave <Space Sweepers> a TPV is $11.
Coming in at #5 of the best Korean movies of the first half of 2021 was the emotional drama that released in February, <I>.
Directed by Kim Hyun-Tak, <I> featured the cast of Kim Hyang-Gi, Ryu Hyung-Kyung, and Yeom Hye-Ran, and had a very indie-feel vibe. The movie revolves around a single mother who has to juggle between her job and raising her baby son, and a college student who’s hired as a babysitter that also has struggles of her own. The detailed synopsis of <I> is as follows:
“Ah-Young” has lived a hard life, to say the least. In need of money, she takes on a babysitting job to take care of ‘Hyuk,’ a 6-month-old baby of the single mother, ‘Young-Chae.’ Young-Chae faces difficulties of her own and life’s been just as unforgiving to her, but she wants to and does whatever she can to raise Hyuk right. As Ah-Young gets comfortable with taking care of Hyuk, things seem to go well for everyone. However, Hyuk gets in an accident one day, and Young-Chae puts all the blame on Ah-Young. When circumstances started to look like they were getting better, everything went back to square one.
<I> was a very real movie and I very much appreciated how it wasn’t forced. It did an amazing job at showing the rough life of the main characters, and the ending was very powerful and emotional. This is definitely something I recommend watching. The Ticket Price Value of <I> was $11.
The fourth movie of best movies of 2021 thus far goes to the romantic drama film released in April, <Waiting for Rain>.
Directed by Cho Jin-Mo, <Waiting for Rain> starred the leads Kang Ha-Neul and Chun Woo-Hee, and also had a special appearance by Kang Sora. When first watching the trailer for <Waiting for Rain>, I was definitely intrigued, but was also a little confused. There are some puzzling parts about the movie, but that’s what made it even more enjoyable. The synopsis is as follows:
Young-Ho was living a life without dream or purpose, just trying to get into university. One day, nostalgia hits him and he recalls an old friend from elementary school. Remembering the good old days, Young-Ho decides to write a handwritten letter to his old friend.
So-Hee was living a life working at her family’s bookstore with her mother. One day, she receives a letter for her sister, So-Yeon, from Young-Ho. She decides to write back, as long as Young-Ho promises to keep a few promises: To not ask questions, to not ask to meet, and to not come and find her. And with that, their fates cross paths and start writing each other, and as they get closer and closer, they decide to meet on December 31st if it happens to rain that day. But will Young-Ho’s hopefulness for rain be enough?
<Waiting for Rain> had a wide range of elements. From humor, emotional, nostalgia, acting performance, and being realistic, the film definitely had a lot going for itself. The movie started off very strong, but I have to admit that it did slow down a little. With that being said, though, it is still one of the best movies to release so far this year. If you are able to see this and it’s available, I do recommend giving this a go. The Ticket Price Value of <Waiting for Rain> was also $11.
Next, the #3 movie goes to the crime drama that released in May, <Pipeline>.
<Pipeline> was directed by Yoo Ha, the director who also directed other famous works, and starred Seo In-Guk, Lee Soo-Hyuk, Eum Moon-Seok, Yoo Seung-Mok, Tae Hang-Ho, Bae Yoo-Ram, and Bae Da-Bin. The film shied away from director Yoo Ha’s previous well-known genre, which is more of a darker, noir-gangster genre, and this was more of a comedic crime film. The synopsis is as follows:
‘Pindori’ is a genius driller that’s a legend when it comes to oil theft. One day, he receives an offer from a conglomerate successor, ‘Gun-Woo,’ to partake in a grand-scale oil heist. Thus, he teams up with the master welder, ‘New Bird,’ the man who has the underground blueprint embedded in his head, ‘Chief Na,’ the human-excavator, ‘Big Shovel,’ and the watch-woman, ‘Counter,’ to rob millions of dollars worth of oil. However, everyone has different plans and objectives, and once these start revealing, things take a turn for the worst. The members all dream to turn their lives around, but will they be able to succeed in the biggest heist of their lives?
As mentioned, <Pipeline> was a film that was a different and new challenge for director Yoo Ha. Although it wasn’t up there with some of his other great works, I’d say it’s still worth watching if you’re in for a comedic crime movie. One thing I’d suggest though is to not set your expectations too high, as that can lead to disappointments. That being said, if you’re a fan of Seo In-Guk, Lee Soo-Hyuk, or any of the other cast members, and enjoyed films such as <Collectors> and <The Thieves>, I’d say this is worth the watch. I gave <Pipeline> a Ticket Price Value of $12.
And now, just two movies left. The #2 film goes to the March-released film that had amazing music, <The Box>.
<The Box> was directed by Yang Jung-Woong, and starred Cho Dal-Hwan and Chanyeol of EXO. As with <Double Patty> starring Irene, it’s great to see more and more idols getting the opportunity to act in feature films. The synopsis of <The Box> is as follows:
A washed-up former hit producer, Min-Soo, coincidentally discovers a young male, Ji Hoon, singing and playing the guitar, and he’s instantly mesmerized by his potential. He aspires to get Ji Hoon to become a singer, but there’s just one problem: Ji Hoon gets extreme stage fright. However, Min-Soo can’t give up on the potential that Ji Hoon has, and so they sign a contract to have Ji Hoon perform 10 times in various locations, while being inside a refrigerator box. And so, the two leave on a nation-wide tour to get Ji Hoon’s name out, and possibly cure his fear of the stage.
If you like music and musical dramas, I highly, highly recommend watching <The Box>. The film was full of amazing music, and the movie was pleasant both to the ears and the eyes. If you have the opportunity to see this, I highly recommend giving this a go – especially if you’re a fan of Chanyeol, EXO, K-pop, or just music in general. If you don’t have access to the film, then I suggest at least checking out the original soundtracks of the movie, as those are very addicting. The TPV of <The Box> was $12.
And finally, the #1 movie of 2021 so far. The #1 movie goes to the most recently released film on this list, <Midnight>.
Directed by Kwon Oh-Seung, <Midnight> was a thriller that featured a cast lineup of Jin Ki-Ju, Wi Ha-Jun, Park Hoon, Gil Hae-Yeon, and Kim Hye-Yoon. No, the film didn’t’ have the most A-list actors and actresses, but it was amazing nonetheless. As mentioned before, Korean cinema is one of the best when it comes to the genre of thrillers, and <Midnight> was a great example of that. I’ve been craving a good thriller out of Korea, and it’s safe to say that this one delivered. The synopsis is as follows:
On her way back home, the hearing impaired Kyung-Mi witnesses So-Jung on the street, bleeding. She tries to help her, but ends up becoming the new target of the serial killer, Do-Shik. In order to survive, Kyung-Mi frantically runs away, but because she can’t hear even the mere sounds of the killer’s footsteps, it makes it even harder to escape from the murderer. To make matters even worse, the culprit returns baring a new face, threatening her and her surroundings. Will she be able to escape the horror of Do-Shik, and win in this unstoppable thriller chase?
<Midnight> was one of the best thriller/chaser movies I’ve seen recently. The acting was phenomenal by everyone, especially Jin Ki-Ju and Wi Ha-Jun, and the cinematography and auditory elements of the film was incredible. If you are a fan of Korean thrillers, this is one that you need to check out. I gave <Midnight> a Ticket Price Value of $13.
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And that’s it for today’s content on the Best Korean Movies of 2021 so far. There were good movies that came out thus far, but I expect there to be more amazing films to release in the remaining months of the year. Please remember that this list was composed of only movies that I’ve seen, and are biased towards my opinions. Be sure to sign up for ExpressVPN using the link provided to access more Korean movies. If you have video requests, please let me know by commenting down below!
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Please keep in mind this review is composed of solely my own opinions, and should be taken with a grain of salt. I am in no way a professional writer, nor have I majored or studied journalism. This is for informative entertainment purpose only, representing my personal views. I do not own the images and/or videos used in the review. No copyright infringement intended.