I love this movie! I was hesitant to watch it because the premise just calls for a big tragedy at the very end, so I was really surprised at the light tone mixing with the more grave ones in between. It was such a good mix, such a wonderful story.
Amid national chaos and fear for his life, tyrannical King Gwanghae orders his trusted councilor Heo Kyun to find a royal body double. He hires Ha-seon, a peasant mimic who bears a perfect resemblance to the King. When King Gwanghae collapses from a mysterious poison, Ha-seon reluctantly becomes a King. He must follow his conscience to save his country from collapse, avoid assassination, and pull off the biggest masquerade in history. (imdb)
I loved the imposter, even though his role as a jester at a gibang (courtesan house) made him use crude language to entertain the drunk nobles when we first met him, but once we learn to know him better he proves to be a wonderful person. He is a kind man with a deeply seated honour code. Coming from more humble circumstances, he has a heart for the ‘little people’, especially the plight of women he saw both in gibang and the palace. He quickly transforms the lives of people around him with his compassion and understanding, forging genuine relationships with the servants. To see the same actor portray a dark, suspicious king so convincingly is a big bonus.
The cinematography is fantastic, the colours luscious and vibrant, the tone and feel of each scene really impressive. The story flows organically, never dragging or meandering. The movie’s strong point is also the focus on the emotional impact of the imposter, not the scheming going on behind his and the real king’s back. No wonder it turns out to be one most successful Korean movies.
The already seen pauper-to-king scenario is handled with a fresh eye and powerful emotional impact, which is no mean feat these days. I love the movie and I really recommend it for watching. There isn’t a role not played out to perfection here – all actors do their utmost best to shine and this energy propels the movie forward.
I don’t wish to spoil you, so I won’t go into other details, rest assured you won’t be disappointed.
Here’s a trailer with english subtitles: