The Sympathizer Review Out ( Photo Credit – Instagram )

The Sympathizer Review: Star Rating:

Cast: Hoa Xuande, Fred Nguyen Khan, Toan Le, Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen and Robert Downey Jr

Creator: Park Chan-wook and Don McKellar

Director: Park Chan-wook

Streaming On: Max (US), Jiocinema (India)

Language: English and Vietnamese (with subtitles)

Runtime: 7 episodes, around 1 hour each

The Sympathizer Review Out ( Photo Credit – Instagram )

The Sympathizer Review: What’s It About

The Vietnam War was one of the most impactful events in the history of America as it was the first time that the country would immerse itself in war and end up losing, not because they didn’t have the firepower, but because they didn’t fully understand the situation they were trying to get into and the result is a schism not only in Vietnam but also in America, and the dwindling trust of the public in their government. The Sympathizer tries to breach our understanding of both situations by delivering an entertaining and compelling story of morals and self-conviction.

The Sympathizer Review: Script Analysis:

The web series is based on the popular novel of the same name written by Viet Thanh Nguyen, which made a big splash when it was released in 2015 and won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It seems that executives and creatives at A24, one of the best studios right now for films and television with a more artistic flair, seemed to think that the story was good enough to take to the screen. While it is still early to say if they have been successful as we have to wait for the audience’s consensus, but without a doubt, The Sympathizer is one of the most compelling TV series of the year so far.

The series takes us through the perspective of a character named the ‘The Captain’ (Hoa Xuande) who serves as the protagonist, a man divided between his love for his country, Vietnam, but also for his love for America and its culture, an element that seems to be the biggest conflict within the show, as we explore America’s influence around the world, and how even when America does terrible things around the globe, their culture, people, and even the concept of the “American Dream” still has adopters around the entire world, no matter which country we are talking about.

The writing is snappy and humorous at times, and it works in the best possible way. Even when situations are clearly very serious, and we are dealing with life and death matters, the show manages to still have an element of comedy around everything that happens. This tone accentuates the most serious moments very well, as you never expect that the show could go there because it is so light-hearted at times. And so, when the show goes into some very dark places, it might feel like a whiplash at first, but then you understand that the entire situation is just part of life, and life is just like that.

The way the series manages to express this strange dichotomy in our main character is truly effective and will surely make people see themselves in ‘The Captain’ in some shape or form. The series also knows how to pace things very well, and how to foreshadow things in a way that is never too obvious but when looking retrospectively, it makes total sense.

The Sympathizer Review Out ( Photo Credit – Instagram )

The Sympathizer Review: Star Performance

Robert Downey Jr. is undoubtedly the biggest star on the show, and there is no doubt that this performance on the show will make people talk the most. Why? Because Robert Downley Jr. is playing more than just one character, and it is one of the reasons the show gets pretty meta, and also weird enough to make the entire effort unique in its own way. However, Downey Jr. is only a small part of the entire thing and his characters are more of passing thematic signals than actual protagonists of the story.

Hoa Xuande is actually the breakthrough actor of the show, we saw him a couple of years ago in the infamous Cowboy Bebop series for Netflix, but here Xuande is in the leading role, and he is not only very capable of carrying the show on his shoulders but also of becoming the highlight of the show in every single episode. The actor is truly lucky to have such a complex character to play as it becomes the perfect playing ground where he can display all his abilities as an actor, and it is almost certain his participation here will open many doors for him in the future.

The Sympathizer Review: What Doesn’t Work

The writing is direct and efficient but the one force that really makes The Sympathizer something worth watching beyond simple curiosity is Park Chan-wook, one of the best filmmakers around. Park Chan-wook just delivered us a giant masterpiece, ‘Decision to Leave’ and here he is just following the same trend he established for himself in that movie, creating a powerful atmosphere through the use of powerful camerawork.

The Sympathizer Review Out ( Photo Credit – Instagram )

The camerawork is superb, and the way the scenes transition between each other is only one of the signature moves that Park Chan-wook uses throughout the season. All the tricks the director uses on the show are effective, and they imprint the show with its own personality and visual aesthetic, something that is severely lacking nowadays in both films and television.

The Sympathizer Review: Last Words:

The Sympathizer is a display of force from one of our most talented filmmakers working today. Park Chan-wook has a liking for spy shows, with his previous work for television, The Little Drummer Girl, also being part of the genre. However, The Sympathizer feels a bit more quirky without having to abandon the complexity of its historical context as well as the nuance of the moral conflict inside the main characters; it might not be the most mainstream of shows out there, but for whoever gives it a shot, will surely enjoy it.

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