Starring Lee Byung-hun, Han Hyo-joo, Ryu Seung-ryo, Jang Gwang, Shim Eun-kyung, Kim In-kwon
Gripping. Rejuvenating. Strong.
Mixing Anthony Hope’s classic adventure story, The Prisoner of Zenda, with ancient Korean history, Masquerade stars Lee Byung-hun in the dual roles: King and imitator. King Gwanghae (Lee), who, I learn, was a real person, is growing more and more paranoid by the day. It’s not without basis, however, since he’s soon put in a coma by some mysterious poison left in his food by a servant. His lead advisor, Chief Secretary (Ryu) Heo Gyun, hushes the coma up not wanting chaos to break out from an empty throne, but to do this, he’s forced to call on Ha-sun (Lee), a jester of sorts with a striking resemblance to Gwanghae, to fill in until they can get the real king back. The premise is endlessly compelling when done correctly and Masquerade is a fascinating blend of adventure and political intrigue. Lee Byung-hun does an excellent job of transforming the lead character from a kind buffoon to a noble hero fit to be king.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-