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Saturday, July 24, 2010
IRIS starring Lee Byung Hun, Kim Tae Hee, Jung Joon Ho, Kim So Yeon, and T.O.P.
A blockbuster hit and one of the most talked-about dramas of the year, Iris premiered to stunning ratings of 24.5% and had crossed 30% ratings by its 8th episode. With a budget of 20 billion won (approaching one million U.S. dollars per episode), this explosive action-spy thriller uniquely utilized many aspects of American television and action film genres to create a high-octane, large-scale production with international flare and exotic shooting locations.
Megastar and Hallyu icon Lee Byung Hun (known to Hollywood fans as Storm Shadow from GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra) gives the performance of a lifetime as a daredevil secret agent who transforms into a driven, tormented spy on the run from powers he doesn't understand. He is ably assisted by a star-studded cast including Kim Tae Hee (Hallyu star for Love Story in Harvard and Stairway to Heaven), Jung Joon Ho (2008's hit Last Scandal), Kim So Yeon (Gourmet), and T.O.P. (mega Kpop hiphop boyband Big Bang). Succeeding in blending the tension and fast pace of American action dramas such as 24 with the romance and character depth of Korean dramas, Iris's innovative style, heavy-weight leads and big budget have enabled it to become something of a minor phenomenon (the broadcast rights have already been bought in seven other countries). It is well on its way to becoming a Kdrama classic.
Kim Hyun Joon (Lee Byung Hun) and Jin Sa Woo (Jung Joon Ho) are college roommates and best friends when they are recruited by Choi Seung Hee (Kim Tae Hee) into the top secret organization known as the NSS. Seung Hee, the agency's top profiler, had carefully chosen them as candidates, and the two quickly prove themselves as superb agents. Along the way both men fall for Seung Hee - who loves only one of them. When Hyun Joon is sent on his most dangerous and high-profile mission yet in Hungary, he finds himself set up and betrayed. Believing that everyone he cares about is either dead or a traitor, Hyun Joon goes on a quest for vengeance to find out who set him up, and discovers what the organization called IRIS is.
A powerhouse blend of action, drama, and romance, this drama is certainly not to be missed.
The veteran director of classic "Jewel In the Palace" and wildly popular "Yi San" returns with another historical epic in this tale of a young commoner who rises to become the king's concubine and bear him the heir to the throne. Based on the true story of a woman in the Joseon era, Han Hyo Joo, much-beloved for her roles in "Iljimae" (2008) and "Shining Inheritance" (2009), takes the lead as the titular heroine.
An ensemble of rising stars fills out the cast, with Ji Jin Hee ("The Man Who Can't Get Married") as the king, Bae Soo Bin ("Shining Inheritance"), as a guard who watches over her, and Lee So Yeon ("Temptation of an Angel") as the rival concubine. The drama, incidentally, boasts two pairs of reunions for Bae Soo Bin, who starred with Joo in "Shining Inheritance", and then starred with Lee So Yeon in "Temptation of an Angel".
Dong Yi (played by Han Hyo Joo) is orphaned at a young age when her father and brother are unjustly executed. She is watched over by Cha Chun Soo (Bae Soo Bin), a friend of her brother's who promised to look out for her. Naturally kind and gentle, she gains a position as a a water maid at the palace, where she quickly wins favor, particularly from the queen, and she becomes the queen's trusted companion.
When the queen falls ill, Dong Yi cares for her, and her kindness brings her to the king's attention. When the queen dies mysteriously, probably poisoned by another power-hungry concubine (Lee So-Yeon), Dong Yi becomes the royal concubine, shining brilliantly in the court.
As Lady Choi Sook-bin, she bears the king a son while struggling to survive and maintain her position in the tumultuous court life. Protecting her son with all her wiles and wisdom as he grows up, she strives to make him someone worthy of the throne, and successfully brings him to succession as the 21st king of Joseon, Yeongjo.
Han Hyo Joo carries the complex role of this extraordinary woman with her usual grace, charm, and nuance, and the drama boasts top-notch production and cinematography values. It has been steadily climbing in ratings to hit just below 20% by its 10th episode.