“The Sympathizer”: we saw the first episode of the series with Robert Downey Jr before its release, here is our opinion

Created by Park Chan-Wook, this new HBO spy series which traces relations between the United States and Vietnam, begins this Monday in France.

“The Sympathizer”: we saw the first episode of the series with Robert Downey Jr before its release, here is our opinion

Created by Park Chan-Wook, this new HBO spy series which traces relations between the United States and Vietnam, begins this Monday in France. We saw the first episode before its release, here is our opinion.

HBO finally unveils its new series. And because of her names in front of and behind the camera, she is particularly awaited by audiences who love American prestige series. The Sympathizer is the adaptation of the spy novel written by Viet Thanh Nguyen, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2016. The plot focuses on the relations between Vietnam and the United States from the years 1975 to 1980 , following the journey of a North Vietnamese mole infiltrated in the South Vietnamese army (close to the USA) who finds himself in exile in the United States but who continues to send information to the communist army there.

Composed of six episodes, this mini-series is written and directed in particular by Park Chan-wook, a Korean filmmaker who distinguished himself with the films Old Boy or Mademoiselle. Fernando Meirelles (City of God) and Marc Munden (Utopia) are also directing, while Don McKellar also penned the script. Casting-wise, viewers may have a little difficulty recognizing Oscar winner Robert Downey Jr who plays a mysterious CIA agent who doesn't hesitate to change his appearance, opposite Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy, Killing Eve ), Hoa Xuande (Cowboy Bebop) or Marine Delterme (Alice Nevers).

Before its release this Monday in France, we saw the first episode of The Sympathizer in advance. And as one would expect from Park Chan-wook, the first hour of the series has the merit of being surprising and very entertaining. With slick photography, dark humor and dynamic editing, the HBO series (associated with the acclaimed independent studio A24) takes us into a divided Vietnam which is experiencing the climax of its confrontation, the capture of Saigon.

This first episode establishes, at first clumsily, the issues and the characters of its series. With a fragmented montage that does not hesitate to play with temporalities to ironize on events or depict the double game played by its protagonist, the beginnings of the episode sometimes prove to be difficult to understand. But once everyone's allegiances are clear, we let ourselves be carried away by the sophisticated image, the very particular humor of its height, its colorful characters and this intrigue which finally tells the Vietnam War from the point from the Vietnamese perspective. If actor Hoa Xuande carries the series in the role of “Captain”, Robert Downey Jr plays a character who is still very mysterious but delightful, who promises great things for the future.

We will have to wait for the next few weeks before knowing if the sequel lives up to this very exciting pilot. The Sympathizer is broadcast in the United States on HBO every Sunday evening, starting April 14. In France, it is the next day, Monday morning from April 15, that the episodes are put online on Prime Video via the Warner pass.

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