Review: Time Renegades (시간이탈자)

Poster courtesy of CJ Entertainment
Poster courtesy of CJ Entertainment

There’s nothing like a thriller to take your mind off your troubles, and a thriller set across two timelines, that just makes it even more interesting. Time Renegades (시간이탈자) opens today in select theatres across North America, including at Cineplex Empress Walk in Toronto. Directed by Kwak Jae Yong (곽재용) of My Sassy Girl (엽기적인 그녀) fame, it’s complex, fun, at times poignant without being melodramatic, and will keep you on the seat of your pants through the superb editing and transitions between the two timelines.


Time Renegades tells the tale of two men, a teacher in 1983 and a detective in 2015, who are connected via their dreams and try to use each other’s knowledge to save those around them as a serial killer is on the loose in 1983.

**Warning: like all film reviews, there may be spoilers**

My Thoughts

Contrary to what I was expecting, there was no actual time travel, no physical time travel I mean. What there is however, is very lucid dreaming between the two main characters, each in a different timeline 32 years apart. Once they get over the shock that their dreams are really connecting them to another person in another time, they use it to try to alter the actions of a serial killer in 1983.

But let’s backtrack a bit. The film starts off showing two different New Year’s Eves, one in 1982 and another in 2014. In the former, high school music teacher Ji-hwan, played by Jo Jung Seok (조정석) is set to propose to his girlfriend, a fellow teacher. In the latter, rookie detective Gun-woo, played by Lee Jin Wook (이진욱) is looking for a fugitive. Unfortunately, both are injured and end up in the same emergency room, decades apart obviously. While being revived, a blackout happens in both timelines, resulting in their recovery but also a new ability to connect to each other’s lives through lucid dreams.

But that’s not all, there’s a serial killer in the 1983 timeline and his first victim is Ji-hwan’s fiance, Yoon-jung, played by Lim Soo Jung (임수정) – who also plays So-eun, also a teacher, in the 2015 timeline. After Gun-woo adjusts to the fact that his dreams are really communication with Ji-hwan, he finds out that Yoon-jung was murdered and tries to help Ji-hwan prevent it and other murders.

It’s a fascinating, fun and imaginative premise for a thriller and the editing is spot on. The transitions between the two timelines are seamless and both the costuming and filming keep the viewer from having any confusion as the film tells both stories.

In addition, a strong cast who all put in a solid performance, plenty of secondary characters to keep you wondering what’s going to happen next and the chemistry between Ji-hwan and Yoon-jung, and you can’t help but be sucked into the story.

Plus there is the creepy factor of the killer wearing a gas mask and his choice of targets – a super nice teacher and a bunch of high school students – and you’ll be rooting for Gun-woo and Ji-hwan as they hunt for the killer in both times.

I did find the changes to the modern day timeline when Ji-hwan was able to change something in the past – say the fire for example – interesting. There was enough action and plot twists to keep one guessing but it was truly the premise of the film and the acting that set this film apart and make it well worth a watch.

Final Thoughts

Time Renegades is a great film to escape your troubles with, at least for a couple of hours. A complex and imaginative story with great acting will make it one you’ll enjoy and well worth watching. It’s playing now in Toronto, and select theatres across North America.

Have you seen Time Renegades? What did you think?

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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