This South Korean film was filmed almost entirely in Europe and a lot of the dialogue is in English. This is due to the morass of nations battling through the streets of Berlin: Korean, American, Israeli, and Arab secret agents and terrorists fight and shoot each other in a series of exciting set pieces.
As for the plot, well, don’t worry about that. Something to do with a North Korean agent who may or not be a double agent or who may or not have been set up. And some arms deals. And his wife is pregnant. It doesn’t matter if you can’t follow the story, since all problems are solved by fighting rather than clever logic.
It is reminiscent of The Bourne Identity (a deliberate stylistic choice by the director, Ha Jung-Woo) and its international style also prompts comparisons to The Thieves. But The Thieves is more tongue-in-cheek and its set pieces are more dramatic and more unlikely than The Berlin File, which is played completely straight.
It’s entertaining, even though the lack of clear storyline makes it hard to know who to sympathise with until about half way through the film. For a film that tries so hard to look sleek and sophisticated, it’s actually pretty shallow. Enjoy it for what it is: a beautifully photographed martial arts film, rather than a new kind of spy film.