Few foreign films succeed in creating a compelling narrative quite like “The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale.” Directed and written by Korean filmmaker Hoon-jung Park, “The Tiger” is an immortal tale of struggle, independence and freedom.
The film stars veteran actor Min-sik Choi as Chun Man-duk, a hunter that watches over an ancient and venerated Korean mountain during the Japanese occupation of the Kingdom of Korea. Set in 1925, the story revolves around the extinction of the Korean tiger at the hands of hired hunters. When only one tiger remains, it will push the Japanese government to extreme lengths and put Chun Man-duk in the crossfire. When the hunter sets his sights on the monstrous cat, there can be only one outcome.
Supporting Min-sik’s performance is a slew of Korean talent. The standout is a rival hunter, Goo-gyeong played by Man-sik Jeong. The ferocity of his performance brings an incredible amount of risk and reward to the film’s dynamic.
The music works wonders to increase the movie’s value. The cinematography creates beauty in every shot of the Korean landscape. White, snowy forests allow the viewer to focus on the tense action. Vibrant, green bamboo delight the eye. Dense, brown undergrowth create extreme suspense as the audience strains to find the tiger in the foliage.
Korean cinema is very unlike American cinema. It is often fraught with surreal storylines that American audiences find outlandish and strange. However, “The Tiger” has a central, real plot that only suffers from brief dips into fantasy. The true difference that audiences of “The Tiger” need to look out for is the very slow pace at which Korean movies often move. The film is nearly two and a half hours long, and much of this stems from the drawn-out suspense and padding of many scenes. However, this is not at the film’s expense. Those moments of suspense and waiting are vital to the atmosphere and tension of the movie’s key scenes.
The true star of this film is the tiger. Rendered entirely in CGI, the titular character looks lifelike and majestic. Referred to by locals as the “Mountain Lord,” the beast is enormous and threatening. The tiger brings down many of those that hunt it. Each action scene in the movie is a blur of black and orange as the cat flies around the screen.
Underneath the surface of this tale of man vs nature is a story of Korean pride. American audiences may not know that the tiger is a symbol of Korean independence. Through this story of a foreign government’s attempts to snuff out the Korean tiger forever, Hoon-jung shows his audience the vitality of his country’s spirit. The tiger is a powerful force to be reckoned with, and so is this film. Any movie lover that enjoys foreign film, stories of man against nature, or is a lover of Korean history and cinema should check out “The Tiger” on Netflix.