Space Sweepers | Netflix’s Korean Space Opera is Fun if Long

Netflix’s latest movie offering is a Korean space opera with a stellar cast that is sure to capture your attention – but for how long, remains the question.

Directed by Jo Sung-Hee and starring popular actors such as Song Joong-ki (Descendants of The Sun), Kim Tae-ri (The Handmaiden), Jin Seon-kyu (Extreme Job) and Yoo Hai-jin (A Taxi Driver), the feature film follows a spaceship crew as they find a missing seven-year-old girl who is a human-like robot created by a rebel group as a weapon of mass destruction.

The year is 2092. Our protagonists aboard their spaceship Victory are tired, hungry, drowning in debt, and have just returned from their latest space-debris cleaning spree. When they learn that the space shuttle they just cleared contains a seven-year-old girl with a bounty of millions on her head, plans start to form and they jump into action. Even though we are in a utopian society on Mars, just like on Earth, nothing is as it seems.

This is a sharp, satirical, and startlingly diverse movie. The Space Factory is made up of workers from different nationalities who speak in their own language but are able to converse with an in-ear translator device. Almost all these workers are poor, with our lead Tae-ho joining their ranks after being fired from the group of doomsday messengers that are Space Guards. Everyone in the Factory is always scourging to collect more debris so that they can earn more money, and later watch their earnings get swindled away by loan surcharges. None of these differences are played for cheap laughs. Instead, the comedy remains domestic to the Victory spaceship, lands with a flourish, and quickly becomes one of the most enjoyable parts of the film.

Yoo Hae-jin as the robot Bubs puts in a stellar performance here as he moves swiftly between tense and comedic scenes. This particular reviewer was very pleased to find that Song Joong-gi is just as magnetic and affecting playing a single dad as he is playing a swoony soldier. Kim Tae-ri is not your average Girl Boss in her role as Captain Jang; she has moments in which you are genuinely terrified of and for her. And Jin Seon-kyu does his best to enhance the run-of-the-mill bad guy with a good heart character.

Our villain here is English actor and The Hobbit star Richard Armitage, and his character is plain and simply evil, which is precisely why it’s quite enjoyable. With a movie so busy with characters, the baddie and the ways in which he has our protagonists keeling at his feet in this society he owns is terrifying enough.

At 2 hours and 16 minutes, the film runs quite long and hits its plot punches like clockwork; you can almost always tell when things are about to go wrong and how. What remains unpredictable is the sharp sociological commentary, the outstanding comedic scenes, and the heartwarming chemistry between the cast. Just because you know the rough sketch doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the details.

Space Sweepers is streaming on Netflix.

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