Gabi (2011)

Director: Chang Yoon Hyun
Casts: Joo Jin Mo, Kim So Yeon, Park Hee Soon, and Yoo Sun
Genre: Mystery and Drama
Running Time: 115 minutes
Certi: 15

Although “Gabi” means coffee, this film is about the assassination of King Gojong (Park Hee Soon) – the 26th king of the Joseon Dynasty. At the end of the 19th century, coffee was introduced to Korea. Illichi (Joo Jin Mo) and Danya (Kim So Yeon), who are lovers, are captured by the Russian soldiers and eventually handed over to the Japanese officer, Sadako (Yoo Sun). The lovers’ mission is operation ‘Gabi’: assassinate King Gojong. Illichi is the Japanese officer while Danya is King Gojon’s barista. If they failed, their punishment is death.

This film is focused on the characters more than the storyline itself. The interesting element is the conversations between the characters. Yes, the storyline was alright but I enjoyed the characters and their dialogue. This film is slow-pacing as it gives me time to know what’s going on from when Illichi and Danya were together since young until the assassination attempt. Both Joo Jin Mo and Danya managed to speak Russian and Japanese fluently while not having the horrible accent. I’m sure that they took a lot of time to practice these languages. I give them double thumbs up for saying in different languages.

Mostly, I love this couple. The romance that is so strong that they vow not to break apart. The pain and suffering which they have to deal with in their mission is so intense. I cried when Illichi was shot while they tried to escape from war even though I knew something is definitely going to happen. Both of the main casts have the perfect chemistry in working together as Russian lovers in this film.

The cinematography is good but I wasn’t impressed with some scenes which are quite bad. For example, when Sadoko was with her men on horses by the hill, it was obvious and bad that the effect didn’t go well. I do want to know what actually happened to the King’s wife. There is no back story about the king. Like I said, the characters are great but some parts are missing in the storyline.

Since I am interested in Korean history, I’m not quite sure about this one. I don’t even know whether the history between Korea, Japan, and Russia is true. At the ending, I do really want to visit the historical place where the King had his coffee. Even though this is based on a fictional story with historical setting ‘Russian Coffee’, I wish that some interesting elements should be added.

I do enjoy ‘Gabi’ but a few things are lacking. This film makes me want to drink coffee but it seems that there’s no sugar in it. The bitterness is there but it can’t be too bitter and too sweet. Other than the great characters, the storyline should be focused more.

Rating: 7/10

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