If Signal were a movie, i’m certain it would be very close to Time Renegades.
So, if you haven’t watched the former (why not?) and find a 16-episode drama too daunting (i promise you it isn’t!), you can check the latter out and decide if the 107-minute thriller is satisfying enough. If it left you wanting, then by all means watch Signal! They are not dead ringer of each other, but the premise, plot points, development, and outcome are alike (with differing conclusion) that i wonder if the screenwriters brainstormed the topic together.
Frankly, the similarity was what drew me in: two people from past and present working together to solve a certain cold case. There is no space/time bending at play as they are magically connected through dreams. After suffering from near fatal injuries and revived on respective new year’s eve, they are able to see through the other’s eyes in their dreams. That’s how high-school music teacher Baek Ji-hwan (Jo Jung-seok) in 1983 learns about future events, and rookie detective Kim Gun-woo (Lee Jin-wook) in 2015 the past. The degree of vividness unnerves both men, though those around them laugh at the absurdity — who would believe one could ‘witness’ what life will be like 32 years from now?
Ji-hwan is ready to shrug it off as weird yet fascinating vision, until he notices a horrific file case on his fiancée, science teacher Seo Yoon-jung (Im Soo-jung), studied by Gun-woo. Gun-woo, on the other hand, is agog to figure out why he keeps dreaming about people he doesn’t even know after learning that they are real. His curiosity is further piqued by the appearance of Yoon-jung’s doppelgänger in his vicinity. Albeit having different name and personality, Jung So-eun (also played by Im Soo-jung) has the same face, habit, and profession as Yoon-jung.
Despite the prescient knowledge, Ji-hwan fails to save Yoon-jung or secure the suspect, who turns out to be the father of his student Kang Seung-beom (Lee Min-ho). He pleads innocent, which is corroborated by the fact that the serial killing continues after his death. With that information, Ji-hwan swears to catch the culprit wearing a gas mask and prevent subsequent crimes from happening. Gun-woo appears to be unrelated to the tragedy happening in the past, until So-eun is kidnapped by a gas-masked man.
Who is the perp?
Why is So-eun targeted?
Will Gun-woo come to the rescue in time?
Will the elusive killer be caught in the past or present?
I am not intending to make comparison post so i won’t elaborate the similarities and differences further, but let me just say that if you haven’t watched Signal, this romance thriller might offer a logic-twisting, mind-bending subject; if you have, however, it would dampen Time Renegades‘ impact and make it less mind-boggling than it’s supposed to be. Order may matter, but i believe plot and execution also play a big part in shaping overall quality and grippingness, and in that regard, Signal packed a heftier punch. Its much longer run arguably gave it an upper hand in building the narrative and fleshing out the characters, but despite the odds, Time Renegades manages to tell a solid story, deliver a suspenseful if spooky climax, and wrap up with a conclusive if bittersweet ending.
Like any other movie/drama with two timelines, Time Renegades paints past scenes in sepia tone and the present in cool tone. The transitions are seamless, the directing is sharp, the acting is good. [Spoilers ahead] It isn’t a flawless production though; present-time arc is underdeveloped that the love line seems rushed and Gun-woo lacks significance besides being Ji-hwan’s informative eyes. As if Ji-hwan is doing all the work whereas Gun-woo is the indirect informant. One of the biggest questions i had is how Ji-hwan could know something that has yet to happen in the present — him asking Seung-beom to save So-eun at a future date. Did he make the request after the fact? Maybe the timelines weren’t as parallel as chronicled on the screen, or perhaps it’s simply a placement mistake.
The culprit is unsettling to say the least. He dares to commit homicide in broad daylight, during school hours at that! He also possesses inhuman resilience — neither a few-storey fall nor chemical burn to the face affects him! And while the killer’s identity is quite random — it’s impossible to pinpoint who he was beforehand as he only appeared like once, briefly, before the reveal — the bigger bummer is the motive for murder. That it’s done over a trivial matter is nothing new, so i can’t say i’m disappointed, though it just saddens me that one’s life is worth so little. Nevertheless, his explosive end was a deserving send-off for his madness.
It’s also nice that the movie gave proper answer to the link between the two men besides the fact that they shared matching trauma and loved the ‘same’ girl. It’s partly predictable; the moment Yoon-jung was gone, i knew So-eun was her reincarnation. Gun-woo’s origin was a welcomed twist, though not entirely unexpected given Yoon-jung/Ji-hwan’s dialogue in the opening minutes, even to the man himself. I don’t think Ji-hwan was aware of their relation but his tenacity to catch the beast in his lifetime allowed the couple’s future selves to attain their ultimate dream. Sometimes history does repeat itself, in a good way. For a film whose concept is to show “the pain of losing loved ones and the joy of meeting them again”, i guess it has done so quite well. That said, i wonder if it’s fully conveyed if the one losing and the one reunited are not the same persons.
Director: Kwak Jae-yong
Production: CJ Entertainment, 2016
Cast: Jo Jung-seok, Im Soo-jung, Lee Jin-wook, Jung Jin-young, Lee Min-ho (1993), Kim Bo-ra, Lee Ki-Woo, Ohn Joo-wan, Jeon Sin-hwan
Genre: Crime thriller, Romance, Fantasy, K-movie