Original Title: 코리아
Director: Kwon Seong-hwi and Yoo Yeong-ah
As One was inspired by true events. In order to ease tensions between North and South Korea, both governments decide to form a unified table tennis team under the name “Korea” and have them compete at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan.
Hyun Jung-hwa (Ha Ji-won) is the ace of the Southern team, and she is not unfamiliar with going toe to toe with Li Bun-hui (Bae Doona), the ace of the North. Both teams are hesitant on joining forces and constantly quarrel with each other. However, they must put their differences aside in order to win the gold.
Ha Ji-won and Bae Doona are two of the most well renowned actresses in Korean cinema, and them being in the same film together definitely feels like Christmas. To prepare for the film, both actresses underwent the training needed to be able to move like professional table tennis players. They got so good that no body doubles were used when filming the matches. The actresses even went as far to study the mannerisms, and even the speaking styles and dialects of their real life counterparts.
Ha Ji-won and Bae Doona’s performances were nothing short of fantastic. Ha Ji-won’s passionate and emotional performance contrasted well with the calm and coolness Bae Doona’s. Bae’s performance in particular is quite fascinating, considering how quirky she can be as an actress. The whole cast shined in their own right, portraying nicely the drastically different South and North Koreas.
The theme of the story is how only for a brief moment, both Koreas were one, and was an unstoppable force when it happened. Furthermore, the underlying message of the story is that no matter how different people of differing cultures, opinions, or allegiances are, we are still human and are more than capable of becoming friends.
That being said, in the film seeing the Northerners and Southerners go from enemies who constantly fight and threaten each other, to a group whose bonds are unbreakable is a heartwarming journey. This character growth not only complements the theme of friendship, but also the sports-centric story.
As mentioned earlier, no body doubles were used in any of the table tennis matches, meaning the actresses really did kick as much ass as they were portrayed on screen. Viewers can almost feel the wind with every swing of the racket as the balls get pummeled. Being a sports film, As One does a great job at controlling the moments when you hold your breath, cry, and cheer as if you were watching the match live.
Watch this film…
… if you want to cheer watching intense sports matches, laugh at culture clashes, and cry when it finally ends.