Masquerade (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
February 16, 2014 by Dennis Amith
“Masquerade” is deserving of its awards and being one of the highest grossing films in Korea. Not only is it a fantastic film but it’s a film that manages to find a balance between great acting, beautiful cinematography, wonderful costume and set design and most importantly, a well-crafted, well-planned screenplay. Chang-min Choo’s “Masquerade” may not be entirely factual but it’s still a wonderful film that I highly recommend!
© 2013 CJ E&M Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
FILM RELEASE: 2012
DURATION: 131 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:77:1 aspect ratio), Korean and English Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: CJ Entertainment
RATED: Suggested 13 & Up
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Directed by Chang-min Choo
Screenplay by Jo-yun Hwang
Screenplay Adaptation by Chang-min Choo
Producer: Ji-hoon Jung, Ho-seong Kim, Dong-yeong Won, Sang Yim
Co-Producer: Bo-yeon Kim
Co-Executive Producer: Tae-sung Jeong
Consulting Producer: Jonathan Kim
Music by Jun-seong Kim, Mowg
Cinematographer Tae-yoon Lee
Edited by Na-young Nam
Production Design by Heung-seok Oh
Costume Design by Yoo-jin Kwon
Byung-hun Lee as Ha-seon/King Gwang-hae
Ryu Seung-Ryong as Heo Gyun
Hyo-ju Han as Queen
In-kwon Kim as Do
Gwang Jang as Eunuch
Eun-kyung Shim as Sa-wol
Myung-gon Kim as Park Choong-seo
Political intrigue, betrayal, peril and forbidden romance play out in this lavish, critically acclaimed historical epic set in the royal palace of Korea s ancient Joseon Dynasty, when a lowly peasant is forced to masquerade as the tyrannical king, who has fallen ill.
It became the fourth highest grossing film in Korea and now Chang-Min Choo’s “Masquerade” will be released in the United States in Feb. 2014 courtesy of CJ Entertainment.
Featuring a screenplay by Jo-yun Hwang (“Oldboy”, “Spring Bears Love”), the film stars Byung-hun Lee (“G.I. Joe: The Rose of Cobra”, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”), Ryu Seung-Ryong (“War of the Arrows”, “The Front Line”), Hyo-ju Han (“Always”, “Ride Away”), In-kwon Kim (“My Way”, “The Tower”) and more!
“Masquerade” is a historical film that is loosely based on King Gwanghae, the 15th king of the Joseon Dynasty (1608-1623). He is one of the kings in Korea who was never given a temple name due to the fact that he was deposed in a coup.
The film revolves around King Gwanghae (portrayed by Byung-hun Lee), who fears he may be assassinated. So, his female tasters tend to go through his food but many are scared to take their life and eat/drink the food, because it may be poisoned.
Fearing for his life, King Gwanghae has his councilor Heo Gyun (portrayed by Ryu Seung-ryong) to find someone to take his place if anything is to happen to him, but the man must look exactly like him.
After attempts to find someone that looks like him, they are able to find an acrobat who loves to do impressions of King Gwanghae, a man named Ha-sun who does impressions of the king as a womanizer.
Granted, he could be killed for mocking the king but because he bares the same look as King Gwanghae, they found the right person to impersonate the King.
But once Ha-sun arrives and dresses like the king, Gwanghae is drugged and is near death. So, Ha-sun must learn quickly of how to become like the King by listening to the councilor Heo Gyun and his Chief Eunuch (portrayed by Jang Gwang) but also follow the rules that he must not engage in any sexual activity with any of King Gwanghae’s concubines.
And as Ha-sun learns about how to behave like the king and even goes as far as studying, he starts to realize how difficult the life of the King.
But life for Ha-sun quickly becomes difficult as he starts to learn how the people in the country are hurting because of harsh taxes and makes a controversial move to help those who have been hurt by taxes and vows to punish anyone from his council who are taking bribes.
When Lady Han (portrayed by Park Ji-a) threatens to kill herself because of her brother being held for treason, Ha-sun (as King Gwanghae) gives his word that he will free her brother but at the same time, he becomes smitten with her.
When Ha-sun as King Gwanghae frees the man for he has done nothing wrong but is suspected of treason, he has him freed, against the rules of those who impose justice.
And as people around King Gwanghae start to notice an upbeat King that isn’t a tyrant and is not sleeping with women, the more he starts to win those around him because he cares about the people, but those in the council suspect something is awry.
Meanwhile, the real King Gwanghae is getting better but tells his Councilor that when he gets back to being the king, he wants those who tried to drug him to be executed. Meanwhile, he wants Ha-sun killed as he doesn’t want anyone to find out that someone was pretending to be king.
As Ha-sun continues to impersonate King Gwanghae and becomes used to his position, what happens when those who conspired to kill the King, now try to kill Ha-sun? And what happens when spies start to learn the truth that Ha-sun is an impostor?
“Masquerade” is presented in 1080p High Definition and is a film that manages to capture the beauty of costume design and set design with magnificent clarity. Colors are vibrant, skin tones are natural, closeups feature plenty of detail and for the most part, this film looks great on Blu-ray. I did not notice any artifacts or banding during my viewing of the film.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Masquerade” is presented and English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. Unfortunately, there is no lossless soundtrack but for the most part, audio quality is very good, wit good use of surround channels for ambiance.
Subtitles are in English.
Unfortunately, there are no special features included with this Blu-ray release.
“Masquerade” is a film that not only is beautiful, but it is a film that starts off upbeat and plenty of humor but transforms itself to wonderful Korean cinema and will no doubt be a highlight in the oeuvre of filmmaker Chang-min Choo and writer Jo-yun Hwang.
The film has broken sales records in Korea and has the title of the fourth grossing Korean film of all time but it also won all 15 awards it was nominated for at the 49th Grand Bell Awards.
It’s a fantastic film as while it is a historical film, it’s not a film that depends on action or war but focuses on solid acting on the part of actor Byung-hun Lee and Seung-Ryong Ryu. These character roles are able to test the various levels of emotion for actor Byung-hun Lee as he must go from comical and unusual to a man transformed to a man with a heart of gold and a love for his country, and behaving like a king despite the fact that he is impersonating one.
I have watched many Korean films and for a historical film, this has to be my favorite Korean film about a prominent figure of Korean history, even though he is one of the more controversial kings in Korea, who still has not have a temple named after him due to the fact that he was deposed in a coup.
But everything about this film is wonderful. Costume design is gorgeous, set design was carefully planned, the acting is stellar, the cinematography is gorgeous and the music is also captivating.
“Masquerade” is a film that is not only epic but also magnificent and inspiring.
As awesome the film is for its picture quality, I was surprised that there is no lossless audio soundtrack included, nor is there any special features included as well. You do get the Korean and English dub 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks but for a film of this nature, you would expect special features to be included.
It’s important to note that this is the same Blu-ray as with the March 2013 Best Buy-exclusive release, so there are no additions or changes made to this 2014 Blu-ray release.
Overall, “Masquerade” is deserving of its awards and being one of the highest grossing films in Korea. Not only is it a fantastic film but it’s a film that manages to find a balance between great acting, beautiful cinematography, wonderful costume and set design and most importantly, a well-crafted, well-planned screenplay.
Chang-min Choo’s “Masquerade” may not be entirely factual but it’s still a wonderful film that I highly recommend!
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