Spy stories have all the ingredients for great television: there’s tension, double-crosses, and the opportunity for many, many wigs. In The sympathizer, most of them are worn by Robert Downey, Jr.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen, The sympathizer looks like our next big spy obsession. It’s a landmark adaptation of an acclaimed Vietnamese work, and it marks Park Chan-wook’s return to television five years after his excellent 2018 AMC miniseries. The little thresher girl. (And a year after releasing one of the best movies of 2022, Decision to leave.)
Drawing inspiration from its dizzying source material – which happily leaps from genre to genre with a dizzying recursive tale about an unnamed North Vietnamese spy embedded in the South Vietnamese military, who emigrates to the United States to , among other things, a grotesque film production — the trailer for The sympathizer is wonderfully confusing.
Featuring Hoa Xuande as the protagonist (nicknamed “The Captain”), the trailer gives us a look at The Captain’s Catch-22-esque journey into espionage, where he seems to meet several characters, all played by Robert Downey, Jr. towards the Vietnam War.
From the pictures shown, The sympathizer seems like both a worthy adaptation of a rich novel and another exposition for Park Chan-wook’s formidable spy thriller chops.
The sympathizer premieres live on HBO and Max streaming in 2024.