The Veil (2021) Early Review

Non-spoiler review

The always reliable Namgoong Min assumes the lead role in this fast moving mole hunt involving an elite but troubled National Intelligence Agency field operative Han Ji-hyuk who returns to the fold a year after going missing in action. One year earlier he was part of an assignment that saw the death of two colleagues working alongside him as members of the Overseas Bureau. When the sordid tale of deceit begins, Ji-hyuk, formerly presumed dead, is found on a smuggling ship that provides cover for an organ harvesting racket. This brief incident sets the stage and tone for not only what’s to come but also signals an inquiry into what it is that makes a licensed killer so terrifyingly good at what he does. All of this comes at great cost emotionally while he habitually leaves a bloody trail wherever he may tread and yes, the violence here is unabashedly hard core. Bad people are really bad and they have no regard for anything called the rule of law. Kill first and ask questions never. It’s established very early that only the headcase that’s Han Ji-hyuk is anything close to a match for the ruthless ganglords.

Not everyone is overjoyed to see Ji-hyuk back at the office for one reason or another and as always with matters relating to high level bureaucrats in law enforcement, the NIS is awash with competing agendas. Answers are in high demand for what happened a year ago but to everyone’s chagrin, Han Ji-hyuk has drug-induced amnesia for the period in question. His mental stability is in doubt and after a brief recovery period, he lands himself a desk job in the organization.

But not for long.

Ji-hyuk’s expertise with international drug runners and gang bangers quickly puts him in the hot seat. Once he’s brought back in, he is destined to be a moving target. It is clear that he and his team were betrayed a year ago by someone within the NIS. Who it is, becomes his unstated mission. That is… if he doesn’t end up dead first.

There’s a lot at stake, not just for Han Ji-hyuk but for the everyone who would rather he never came back. Somewhere at the back of his wardrobe is the beginnings of a list suspects for the role of possible traitors. It could be one of them, it could be none of them. There’s no one he can trust not even the man who recruited him.

If the first two episode that dropped over the weekend are anything to go by, we are in for plenty of thrills and spills. The large (but brief) action sequences are those we’re more accustomed to seeing on the big screen. The fact that it is a 12 episode drama in likelihood means that fillers will be kept to a minimum — matter for rejoicing undoubtedly. So far that seems to be the case and the devil is certainly in the details of who’s who done what. Namgoong Min who was last seen in the less impressive Awaken apparently put on 14 kg to bulk up for this role. To make it worth his while, the camera is never shy to capture the newly acquired bodybuilder physique in all its sculptured glory. When the opportunity arises.

Namgoong Min is surrounded by wide-ranging group of familiar faces that includes Jang Young-nam as the deputy commissioner, Park Ha-sun, a disgruntled colleague whose been transferred to a different division, Kim Do-hyun a competitive rival now head of his own intelligence gathering team and mentor Kim Jong-tae, the closest thing to a friend that the protagonist has. Kim Ji-eun is Han Ji-hyuk’s latest partner Je-yi whose girlish enthusiasm seems to me to be completely out of place in this cut-throat dog eat dog environment. However the show loses no time indulging in long introductions as her background as an intelligence analyst quickly comes in handy.

Not so long ago there was a highly acclaimed popular British series called Spooks that ran for about a decade. Which was undoubtedly an accomplishment. Something about this reminds me of that. Perhaps it’s the sense of urgency, the feeling of dread and the cloud of suspicion that surrounds the cast. Whatever it is, one can only hope that this production turns out to be half as good and viewers will be rewarded with a lean tightly written script from start to finish.