Spiritwalker review – 2021 South Korean mystery-action fantasy film

Spiritwalker (Korean: 유체이탈자; Hanja: 遺體離脫者; RR: Yucheitalja) is a 2021 South Korean mystery-action fantasy film, written and directed by Yoon Jae-geun. Starring Yoon Kye-sang, Park Yong-woo and Lim Ji-yeon, the film revolves around a amnesiac man who subsequently wakes up in a new body every twelve hours. It had its premiere at 20th New York Asian Film Festival on August 22, 2021, and was released theatrically on November 24, 2021, in South Korea.

Who is he? What happened? After watching this high-concept body-swap thriller from South Korea, I’m still scratching my head. Bourne Identity-style, it begins with a man in an expensive designer suit (Yoon Kye-sang) waking up in a car crash: he’s got a gunshot wound and no memory of who he is. But the instant he claps his eyes on his reflection he knows one thing: he’s in someone else’s body. You might wonder how he can be so certain what with the memory loss; but start picking at the plot holes and the entire movie falls apart in your hands.

Things get worse for our amnesiac: at noon he wakes up in another body. Then at midnight the same thing happens – again and again, every 12 hours. After one switcheroo he finds himself in the basement of a sleazy upmarket strip club in the body of a gangland boss halfway through a nasty spot of torture. All the hosts seem to be connected to the criminal underworld – and the noirish Seoul setting provides plenty of glass and mirrors for him to cop a look at his new reflections. Interestingly, Yoon plays the hosts when the amnesiac takes up residence in their bodies, while different actors portray them at other times. I wondered whether the already-confirmed Hollywood remake will stick with that casting choice.

The memory-loss device in Spiritwalker feels like exactly that: a device. It’s entertaining enough, with some well-executed car chases and bone-splintering fights. But the movie doesn’t have an awful lot to say about memory or identity, and Kye-sang’s character seems weirdly untroubled by existential terror given his predicament. My first instinct after it finished was to watch it again to try to put the pieces of the puzzle together. But then again, I’m not sure that would add very much.

Spiritwalker – Cast

Yoon Kye-sang as Kang I-an, agent
Park Yong-woo as Director Park, a agent who is chasing Kang I-an.
Lim Ji-yeon as Moon Jin-ah, she is looking for Kang Eui-ah
Park Ji-hwan as Haengryeo, Kang I-an’s helper, a homeless person.
Yoo Seung-mok as Chief Lee Shin-woo
Lee Sung-wook as Yoo Dae-ri, a co-worker of Kang I-an
Seo Hyun-woo as Baek Sang-sa
Lee Woon-san as Ji Cheol-ho
Hong Ki-joon as Go Joong-sa
Joo Jin-mo as Director Hong
Park Min-jung as Cake Lady
Kim Min-kyung

Spiritwalker – Production

On January 21, 2019, it was reported that Lim Ji-yeon has joined Yoon Kye-sang as female lead for the film tentatively titled as ‘Fluid Renegades’. Yoon Kye-sang has acted as a mirror in 7 roles as he wakes in a different body after every 12 hours.

Filming began on January 15, 2019, after completion of casting line up.

Spiritwalker – Release

Spiritwalker had its premiere at 20th New York Asian Film Festival on August 22, 2021. It was also invited at 53rd Sitges Film Festival in ‘Fantastic Panorama’ section held from October 8 to 18, 2020. Apart from these festivals the film was invited to 5 other major film festivals as: 17th British Mayham Film Festival, the 35th German Fantasy Filmfest, The 6th London East Asian Film Festival, the 21st Trieste Science Fiction Film Festival, and the 41st Hawaii International Film Festival.

It has been sold to 107 countries before its theatrically release on November 24, 2021, in South Korea.

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