Film Review: Identity-Bending Korean Actioner “Spiritwalker”

spiritwalker 2021 film movie poster one sheetAgent Kang I-an (Yoon Kye-sang) has a big problem; he’s regained consciousness at the scene of a car accident in someone else’s body. The face he sees in the reflection of the car window isn’t his own. How can this be? And why is a special police team chasing him, along with what seems to be a gang of crooks? Worse, a few hours later he wakes up in yet another person’s body. In the wild and action-filled Korean thriller Spiritwalker, Kang I-an is bouncing from identity to identity, faced with the challenge of figuring out what the heck’s going on even as he – and his pursuers – begin to realize that I-an could be any one of them.

If he can connect with his girlfriend Moon Jin-ah (Lim Ji-yeon) and convince her that he’s really I-an in the body of a stranger, he might get some answers, but meanwhile, he’s stuck relying on the help of homeless wheeler-dealer Haengryeo (Park Ji-hwan) as they race through South Korea trying to figure out what’s going on. The clues point to a major conspiracy, however, so it’s no wonder that Director Park (Park Yong-woo) has his team shooting through obstacles to find I-an, but the mob is hot on his trail too!

Spiritwalker is a fun and intriguing film that is loaded with action, a movie where you’ll need to pay close attention because when I-an isn’t looking at his latest face in a mirror or window, we’re also left trying to keep track of who’s who on screen. There’s also some bouncing around the timeline; it starts about 75% through the story, then moves back and forth fluidly to explain what happened and how this identity-bouncing situation arose. Writer/director Yoon Jae Keun is clearly inspired by Chris Nolan’s films (in particular, Momento seemed a likely inspiration) in his exploration of both time and identity. Logical, since one of the core questions of any movie is who are they? given that we, as the viewer, are aware both of their character’s identity and the actor’s identity too.

Yoon Kye-sang from Spiritwalker publicity still photo

Kang I-an (Kye-sang), from the Korean actioner “Spiritwalker”

The cinematography is moody and swooping, with some remarkable technical shots that pull the viewer right into the middle of the action, though the sets proved rather cliché for the genre, the nightclub, the junky electronics store, the long, neon-lit hallways, the car chases at night, always at night. It can also be a bit confusing because the film isn’t 100% consistent about whose face I-an sees in a reflection or who we see, a Point of View (POV) challenge for a storyline with this level of complexity.

Nonetheless, this was a dynamite film that offers thrills and some interesting ideas for viewers willing to find themselves a copy to watch. But no worries, rumor has it that there’s a US remake in the works, with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura (G.I. Joe, Transformers) searching for a cast and crew. Whether the American remake will adequately capture the nuances of this genre-bending storyline we’ll have to see. Meanwhile, watch the Korean release of Spiritwalker if you can find a copy. Recommended.

dave taylor vertigo film swirl backgroundPlanet Dave is run by Dave Taylor, who has been writing about film, cars, games, and his lifestyle for many years. He's based in Boulder, Colorado and assures readers he's only occasionally falling into a gravity well or temporal distortion field.

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