Alienoid proves, once again. That Kim Tae-ri has incredible reach

Try to find the most accurate way to describe Alienoid it’s like trying to hold the sand of time in your hands. Realized by Choi Dong-hoon, the time-traveling South Korean action flick is a film that dives into both sci-fi and fantasy, becoming a bit of a glorious mess that’s great to grasp. Telling a story that spans multiple timelines and genres, it can be quite heavy in a way that’s hard to master. It’s a movie that feels like it’s moving at a mile a minute, hardly ever stopping so you can catch your breath as it throws everything on the screen. However, at the heart of it is the always exceptional Kim Tae-ri like the older version of Lee Ahn who is tasked with saving the world as we know it.

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Perhaps best known for her outstanding work in her first feature film The servant and last year’s Space sweepers, she’s a dynamic performer who pretty much disappears into every character she’s taken on to date. Even in these two roles that preceded Alienoid, she’s covered more ground than most actors in an entire acting career. In The servant, she was able to go from pretending to be an unassuming servant to a wealthy heiress as part of an elaborate scam to then fall in love with said brand. She made the vibrant erotic thriller an overwhelming emotional experience because she was so compelling through every twist he threw at us. There wasn’t a moment when she wasn’t convincing as she acted through various layers of deception and unspoken desire. It remains a stunning piece of cinema in part because of its irreplaceable presence.


In Space sweepers, an underrated sci-fi space opera from last year, she played Captain Jang. She leads a ragtag crew who travel across the galaxy on their ship Victory as the title’s so-called space sweepers. They go around collecting debris in space that they can sell to survive before being swept away in the chaos of it all. From the moment we were first introduced to the Captain, she’s just cool as a cucumber and brings real confidence to the character. Even when they undertake wild maneuvers in their craft, she maintains a steely disposition that masks a darker past. If you were to put that aside The servant, you would have no idea it was the same actor. While the film was full of quirky characters, she stood out the moment she put on her sunglasses and took a shot of a flask before battling a rival team. She took what could have been a trope, the hotshot captain in space, and did it on her own without missing a beat mid-show.


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Whereas Alienoid isn’t quite as good as those previous two films, Kim Tae-ri continues to elevate every moment she gets. We don’t really see her for almost an hour, but her introduction is so great it’s worth the wait. Without giving too much away, her character owns a firearm that she brought back to the 14th century. In just the first few moments, she poisons her fiancé, steals his cartoonish fake mustache, and goes into battle. She’s cool under pressure again, taking down enemy after enemy with ease, albeit in a way that feels more subtly silly as she sinks into each fight sequence. When she draws her gun, there’s a perfectly timed needle drop as she shoots a leaping archer and holds everyone up to steal the magic item she came for. Through it all, she remains convincingly unfazed by the unseen couple she deals with before attempting to escape. When she’s captured, you can’t wait for her to break free.


Unfortunately, it takes a while to get back to her as the story jumps far into the future for much of the remaining runtime. Without revealing anything, Lee Ahn finds herself trapped for a while, which puts her a little on the sidelines. It ends up looking a bit like a waste of a talented performer even though there’s a second part looming on the horizon. Still, it’s a testament to how compelling she is of an on-screen presence that she can transcend the confines of storytelling to still be compelling to watch. She oozes with charisma, bringing both an appropriate amount of charm and comedy to the predicament her character finds herself in. Too often, action stars can feel closed off and cold. Lee Ahn ends up feeling more upbeat and actually fun to watch due to how easily Kim Tae-ri can make any scene shine.


The venom with which she can deliver a sarcastic retort is matched only by the seriousness she brings when recounting how she ended up in the past. This helps to instill in everything the necessary emotional stakes that were often in the rest. With her reach and confidence, she builds a character that is both witty and wise, even making a moment when she flips the bird on her captors a fun one. Even though it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger for her character between the time jumps, the movie seems rightfully banking on her being the focus of the sequel. She always exits rather spectacularly as part of a cathartic closing sequence that feels like the whole story is building on.

Without her strength as a performer and her ability to carry that conclusion on her back as the character leaps through the air, it wouldn’t be such a thrilling experience. She makes sure it’s a strong note for the film to end, smoothing out some of the rougher areas so carefully that you’re ready to forgive most of them. If nothing else, it shows once again that she is capable of meeting any challenge thrown at her. Whether the story is set in the vast expanses of space or travels through time, it remains a reason to see any new works that are lucky enough to include it.


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