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Memories of the Sword 

Wednesday, Aug 26 2015
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Park Heung-sik's Memories of the Swordis a historical Korean action film that delivers plenty of what its title promises. It's heavy in flashback and backstory and doesn't skimp on the swordplay and frequently breathtaking action — including plenty of the gravity-defying wirework that's somewhat unfairly associated with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Set in medieval Korea, the story alternates between two timelines. In the first, swordfighters Pung-chun (Bae Soo-bin),Wol-so (Jeon Do-yeon), and Yu-baek (Lee Byung-hun) intervene in a civil uprising, only for Yu-baek to take power for himself, killing Pung-chun and sending Wol-so and the baby she had with Pung-chun into hiding. Eighteen years later in the other timeline, swordfighter Hong-yi (Kim Go-eun) impresses the menfolk when she holds her own in combat games against the despot Yu-baek, who approves: "It looked like a girl to me, but the kid fought like a man!" Meanwhile, the now-blind Wol-so has suspicions about the girl's heritage. The picture wisely puts the most focus on Hong-Yi's story, and its most lovely sequences feature her training, including aSuperman Returns-esque opening sequence of her jump-flying through a field and leaping over a ginormous sunflower in a single bound. Hong-Yi's bloody revenge quest drives Memories of the Sword, but it's at its best in these pastoral (but no less badass) moments.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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