Review of The Throne

The Throne (2015)
6/10
Beautifully Rendered, But Still a Soap
19 July 2016
By 1762, the Joseon dynasty in Korea has been in power for about 300 years, and it's managed to stay in power that long through a mixture of Confucian disciplinary skills amongst the functionaries and adherence to strict codes of behavior and style in the court. Yeongjo (Song Kang-ho) has been King for decades; his son by a concubine, Sado (Yoo Ah-in) is the Crown Prince but he doesn't follow the Confucian teachings (in fact, he hates to study at all) and doesn't adhere to behavioral norms either. When, in a fit of madness, he decides to assassinate his father, his plot is foiled and the King, unable to accuse him of high treason because that would place the dynasty in peril, decides to name him a commoner and condemn him to death. A terrible death, though, one in which the Crown Prince is placed in a sealed wooden box and left in the hot sun to slowly die of thirst and hunger. As the days pass, the story of how such a thing came to pass is told in a series of flashbacks, detailing the tragedy of this royal family…. This film is based on a true incident in Korean history, one that is of huge importance in that culture because of all the social resonance it encompasses. The film is beautifully created, with sumptuous costumes and gorgeous vistas, and both lead actors are convincing in their roles. But, well, the story comes across as quite sentimental and melodramatic (just about all the various women do in the film is weep silently, although there is a memorable scene with the Dowager Queen late in the film), and frankly, at 125 minutes, it's just way longer than it needed to be. In particular, the last 10-15 minutes are quite pointless, at least to someone who is not Korean and thus doesn't have the cultural or historical background to appreciate it. I liked it overall, but it could have done with some judicious editing, I think.
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