The worst affected by corruption is the common man!

The duty of youth is to challenge corruption

Kurt Cobain

Whisper    (2017) 
Also known as
    Crime, Drama, Romance, Thriller
Written by
Directed by
Country of Origin
 South Korea

oh! … brief

The paths of Shin Young-joo, a section chief in the local police department and Lee Dong-joon, an upright and morally just judge, cross when Shin Young-joo’s father is accused of causing the death of a fellow investigative reporter and family friend.

However, Lee Dong-joon is manipulated by the powerful CEO, Choi Il Hwan, of the largest law firm Taebaek. Choi Il Hwan, a flagrant user of bribes and blackmail, is desperately trying to cover the tracks of employees involved in the murder of the investigative reporter. Lee Dong-joon colludes with Choi Il Hwan, condemning Shin Young-joo’s father to prison, without fully understanding what he has gotten himself into.

It isn’t long before Lee Dong-joon realizes his mistake and joins forces with Shin Young-joo to uncover Choi Il Hwan’s corruption and control of Korea’s socio-political affairs, including defence industry corruption.

oh! … talks drama

This kdrama was entertaining to watch, but also profoundly meditative. The story delivery was fast-paced and gripping, the kind of grip that holds the audience captivated at the edge of their seats with its abrupt plot twists.

It’s no surprise that award-winning screenwriter Park Kyung Soo is the writing mastermind behind the amazing script for this production. This story was so tightly woven and well-constructed that there was little room for error. He penned countless plot twists and turns with more than a fair share of double-crossing disingenuous characters forcing the audience to agonize over every misstep, wrong decision, and the lies told by each and almost every character, good and bad. The conclusion that any choice made, or any oath followed can essentially forever change the fortune of one’s life and all its relationships are ultimate.

With this script, Park Kyung Soo, crafted characters, so complex and nuanced, that you must pay attention to the psychological warfare they rain down on everyone crossing their path. It is sometimes intellectually challenging to anticipate the next move of the characters as they vie for power and metamorphose with every changing event or dynamic. It’s scary how natural and credible the reasoning that motivates each character to behave the way they do, but it is part of the allure. The world of Whisper reflects back to the audience the reality of our own world and its morally corrupt individuals, businesses, governments etc. Whisper will not disappoint crime thriller enthusiasts with its seemingly never-ending game within a game within a game.

And in the midst of all this activity and mind-blowing busyness, Park Kyung Soo hatched a budding romance between Shin Young-joo and Lee Dong-joon. The intense dislike between the two characters from the early episodes, a dislike that bordered on hatred, steadily developed into a mutual respect and affection. Fortunately, Park Kyung Soo never strays too far from the psychological warfare central to this kdrama, so, the romance never distracts or takes centre stage.

I revelled in Park Kyung Soo’s creation of two young men who fall into or stumble their way blindly through the art of playing dirty and trying to work within a dysfunctional and overtly corrupt socio-political system. Lee Dong-joon and Kang Jun-il consistently underestimate each other in their valiant efforts to win the seat of power and have to resort to developing a second plan on the fly. This makes for a thrilling roller-coaster ride.

The hidden but astutely philosophical theme underpinning this production is the role of the father and the chain reaction set off by each character’s father. All the father figures in this production as self-centred, even Shin Young-joo’s. The drive of each father to gain power, wealth, popularity, or justice created the downfall of their own children. Park Kyung Soo brought his narrative full circle when he illustrated Choi Soo-yeon’s loss of power, Kang Jung-il’s loss of wealth, and Lee Dong Joon’s loss of notoriety. These were perhaps the most poignant moments of the kdrama.

With the solid foundation for this production built with the script, director Lee Myung-woo could not go wrong! And he didn’t!

Aesthetically speaking, for all its dark and calculating story, Whisper was a visually beautiful storytelling – a cohesive narrative with every scene was composed and constructed to heighten the thrill and engage the audience.

Lee Myung-woo directed scenes with sweeping grandeur metaphorically displaying opulence and wealth come by through corruption and disdain for honest business. At the same time, he framed intimate moments and contrasted the ‘honest’ characters with lighter colour palettes as to those ‘dishonest’ villainous characters with darker palettes, both in lighting and physical presence or location. It worked! The soundtrack that accompanied this kdrama was mostly, if not entirely, comprised of instrumental tracks. Costumes consisted of mostly formal business attire, men wearing dapper suits, cut to enhance their natural physique and women wearing stylish outfits and accessories, flattering not only their natural beauty but also their role.

But, perhaps his finest accomplishment was the outstanding cast he chose.

Shin Young-joo was played by the award-winning Lee Bo-young. She gave a stellar performance once again as the ousted section chief and daughter of an accused murderer. She inhabited her character and painted a very honest depiction of a woman scorned by the justice system and fighting to restore her father’s reputation and good name alongside own her career, derailed by the corruption of others. Her performance was magnetic and I was drawn to Lee Bo-young’s astute delivery of her character’s plight.

Lee Dong-joon was played by Lee Sang-yoon. The more I see of this young man, the more I am captivated by his natural charm and award-winning acting. Obviously, Lee Sang-yoon cuts a fine figure with his dashing good looks, only further enhanced in this production by those amazing power-suits! Good looks aside, Lee Sang-yoon, knows how to act! And in this kdrama, he brought his A-game to the table. His character’s guilt, frustration, tenderness and calculating nature were perfectly painted with remarkable and keen facial expressions and body language. He owned this character and his performance! Feisty in one scene, tender in another, I was hooked from start to finish. Of all the actors and actresses, he was by far my favourite, breathing life into his character’s traits and idiosyncrasies.

Kang Jung-il, power-hungry and lusting after an opportunity to take-down the CEO of Taebaek Law firm, was played by Kwon Yul. This is the first time I’ve come across Kwon Yul, but I’ll be adding other productions he has performed in. His performance was strong, but my dislike for his character left me rather jaded when it comes to reviewing his acting skills. I struggle, only because the backstory to the character is somewhat lacklustre and I could not find empathy or feel compassion for the predicament the character places himself in. Kwon Yul though is one to watch and his performance is memorable enough to invoke feelings of animosity towards his character, so I look forward to catching up on some of his other productions.

Park Se-young as Choi Soo-yeon just irritated me. Not because she didn’t deliver a solid performance, instead because I found her performance exaggerated, and I loathe melodramatic characters. Now, I understand, that the script called for a frivolous, nonchalant, spoilt-rich-girl attitude with a heavy dose of sarcasm, but I personally felt Park Se-young took it too far. I didn’t connect with her performance emotionally and I felt that some scenes fell flat because of a lack of depth to her interpretation. It wasn’t distracting to the point where I had to stop watching or skip through her scenes, but I was tempted at least two or three times. I’ll watch something else she has starred in so I can get a better impression as to whether her acting style is what bothered me or just this particular character.

oh! … sidekicks

Far too many supporting roles to mention them all, however, there are some that deserve recognition and mention.

Top of mind is Kim Hyung-mook who played Song Tae-gon, the CEO’s secretary and bad-guy-turned-good-guy. What a great performance! This guy was impressive. With only two performances to his name, including Whisper, I must ask the questions, “Where has this guy been hiding?” and “Why isn’t he being cast in productions?”. Kim Hyung-mook’s interpretation of his character’s cunning was astute and he emoted well. There was never any doubt in my mind that this character was going to become the biggest double-crossing agent because Kim Hyung-mook set up the premise early on with his nuanced performance. Loved it!

Lee Dong-joon’s mother, Ahn Myung-sun, played by Won Mi-kyung was another excellent performance. This character was by far, the sanest, most stable and most rational of the entire cast and Won Mi-kyung painted an honest reflection of what it is to be a mother. I loved the sincerity in her performance which manifested as an understated, quiet delivery of a kind-hearted woman with a little bias towards her son. Won Mi-kyung’s delivery of her characters unconditional love was heartbreaking!

While not a major supporting role, Heo Jae-ho’s portrayal of Noh Ki-yong, Lee Dong-joon’s subordinate and friend, was right on the money! This character was key to unravelling and foiling some of Lee Dong-joon’s antagonists’ plots, forcing them to resort to creating new plans on the fly. He was an essential character and Heo Jae-ho took this performance very seriously. Managing the serious aspects of his character’s role, but also providing some comic relief with some of the lines he delivered. I was impressed and am now watching another production he stars in.

oh! that’s a wrap

I’m a criminal thriller aficionado and Whisper fulfilled every promise promoted in the trailers and drama teasers. Climbing to the same level as Voice, Defendant and Cruel City this drama will not disappoint, not even for one second.

While I don’t believe Lee Myung-woo’s intent was to create a drama along the lines of film noir, Whisper comes very close. I highly recommend it and if you’re like me and enthuse over criminal thriller genre’s then this production will appeal to your senses. And even if you’re not a fan of the genres, you should take some time to watch the amazing actors and actresses who took a solid script and delivered stellar performances.

I’ll be watching this again in the future and am adding it to my collection.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailers

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