Nine: Nine Time Travels (2013): Absolutely spellbinding! This is my number 2 show out of hundreds of K-dramas finished. Give your brain a workout instead of just your emotions! Never a dull moment! A story that's like working on a challenging crossword puzzle, where nothing is as it seems at first, as you grasp for possible answers. Never a plot hole or a lapse of logic in the entire story. These two writers, Song Jae-jung and Kim Yoon-joo, will keep you on the edge of your seat more than any other K-drama you will ever watch. This is classic storytelling at its best.
Lee Jin Wook, the star, is a fabulous actor. I was riveted staring at his gorgeous face and body for twenty straight hours! I had previously seen him in only one drama, Alone In Love, (2006) with my favorite actress Ye Jin Son, where he had played the second male lead. Why can't all men look like him, act like him? Everything he feels is on his face without him having to say a word, like a great silent film star. I was thrilled beyond measure that I picked this drama to reach my milestone of 100 K-dramas completed at the time, and I have since re-watched it two more times; it's like an addiction it's so great.
What's even more amazing is that I adored it so much that it replaced my long term top favorite K-drama I'm Sorry, I Love You (2004) and I never thought anything would ever top that one, the first Korean drama I had watched in 2006, which changed my entire focus in entertainment. To be sure, Nine had some story elements which were similar to I'm Sorry, I Love You, perhaps that's why I was so strongly attracted to it: you have a man who is given a short time to live, he is out for revenge against the person who hurt him when he was younger, and he grows attracted to an unusual, pixie, gamin type of a girl whom he probably ordinarily wouldn't be attracted to unless he was facing a tragedy in his life and yearning for a comforting female presence in his final days.
Lee Jin Wook plays Sun Woo Park, a news reporter with an inoperable brain tumor,
who is given 9 chances to go back in time to alter his destiny
Only here, Lee Jin Wook, playing an accomplished news reporter and anchor named Sun Woo Park, is a lot more polished and intelligent a character compared to So Jisub's Moo-hyuk the petty gangster in I'm Sorry, I Love You. The girl Sun Woo loves, perky Min-young Joo (adorable Yoon-hee Jo from The King's Face and Love In Memory) has been his colleague at the news station for five years, so he has known her and watched her in action for all that time, whereas Moo-hyuk had just met Eunchae (Su Jeong Im) in I'm Sorry, I Love You at the beginning of that story and didn't know much about her at first. Nine: Nine Time Travels is also far less dated than I'm Sorry, I Love You in its production values, and it has an overall sophisticated ambiance that I'm Sorry, I Love You lacked. I still love it, but it was time to put something more modern in its place.
You won't know exactly what I mean until your watch this bold, intelligent, and lustrous Korean drama for yourself, with magnificent location shots in the Himalayan Mountains in Nepal that were even more stunning than the opening to The Snow Queen in Lapland; there are cliffhangers in every episode that make you wonder what will happen next; when you think you've "got it" you'll discover you're wrong; beyond brilliant, spot on acting between the lead characters and everyone else in the supporting cast.
Scenes shot in Nepal are breathtakingly stunning in Nine: Nine Time Travels
I can't find one issue to criticize about in this drama --- except that I didn't want it to end! Although it is 20 episodes it goes by so fast, at such a great pace, that you will feel you've completed it in half that time. There are many plot twists and turns in the story, to be sure, but by the end everything will fall into place and you will understand its beauty perfectly. Even the ending floored me; it was transcendental. Some people seem to have trouble understanding it but they haven't been paying full attention to all the hints along the way.
The Story: Our plot begins when news reporter Sun Woo Park (Lee Jin Wook) arrives in Nepal to be picked up by his female colleague Min-young Joo (Yoon-hee Jo) at the airport. She squeals with delight to see him and yells "Sunbae! Over here!" and he smiles and goes running up to her in the rented car and proceeds to give her a nice big kiss, which shocks her. He is quick to propose marriage to her and she thinks he's joking when he says "for the next six months". "Who gets married for six months?" she laughs. She has no idea yet that Sun Woo has an inoperable brain tumor and his doctor, who also happens to be his best friend, Han Young-hoon (Lee Seung-joon from Descendants Of The Sun and Hyde, Jekyll, and I), has told him he really should be hospitalized instead of working until the last minute.
Sun Woo plays along with her confusion, but he is in Nepal for another reason than just to see her: he got a call that Nepal police have found the body and personal belongings of his only brother named Park Jung-woo (Jeon No-min from Star In My Heart, and Bridal Mask). He has traveled a long way, suffering frequent blinding headaches, to pick up his brother's remains and personal belongings. In flashback he remembers his last meeting with his brother in a coffee shop in Korea and his brother was wearing the same jacket when he died. He is also given an incense stick, which his brother had clutched in his hand when he died. Later, on a lark, he lights the stick and for a brief moment he finds himself on the bank of a snowy mountain in Nepal. He writes the experience off as a dream or hallucination, but he had actually time traveled and experienced a real arctic blast. Soon he acquires a bunch more incense sticks and he realizes they have the power to transfer him to the past.
After some time spent together in Nepal, Sun Woo returns to South Korea and Min-young remains in Nepal. Now Sun Woo can focus on what he really wants to accomplish before he dies: expose an evil businessman named Jin Chul Choi (played by veteran actor Dong Hwan Jung from I Hear Your Voice and too many dramas to count) whom he blames for his personal tragedies in life: the death of his father and the destruction of his medical clinic, the resulting mental illness of his mother, and now his brother's death.
He gives his supportive boss Chul Min Oh (played by veteran actor Hyo Sup Um of My Love From Another Star and In Soon Is Pretty and Remember and Liar Game and Gu Family Book, among many other shows) a flash drive filled with incriminating documents against Jin Chul Choi - in the process of raising money for cell research and conducting that research he had killed and maimed many women in different countries and no one had ever called him out on it.
Well, Sun Woo has the guts to -- on national TV, to boot! During an interview he starts to grill Choi off the script on his real business history, that he's not some great humanitarian at all, focusing on improving medicine, rather he's in fact a criminal through unethical business practices - and Choi concludes the interview vowing to get even with Sun Woo professionally and personally.
Then Min-young discovers the truth about Sun Woo's dire health diagnosis. In a memorable telephone scene between the two of them, when she expresses misgivings about getting married under such circumstances, he asks her, "Since you want to know why I want to marry you, I can give you the truthful answer, or I can give you the lie. Which do you want to hear?" and she says she wants to hear both. Wow, I LOVED that scene, and could watch it over and over again. When he gives her the lie, he says to her, "If any man asks you to marry him using these words then you will know he's a liar." "But the lie sounds so much better," she pouts. Brilliant writing, folks! It perfectly captures the differences between men and women. :)
Sun Woo traps and embarrasses Jin Chul Choi on a national broadcast,
setting up a fantastic series of altercations in the future
"Why does the lie sound better?" Such a priceless scene.
Through the use of the incense sticks Sun Woo is able to go back in time and solve his family's mysteries - he learns more about his brother and his father and his mother, especially, that he ends up wishing he had never learned, for the truth is too painful. In order to trap Choi his enemy in the past he has to convince the younger version of himself -- played well by Hyung Sik Park from Heirs -- to work with him to prevent the destruction of his family in the future, but is it even possible? Will he be able to prevent his brother from dying in Nepal?
Sun Woo talks to himself when he was a teenager and has to convince the boy
they are one and the same person and have the same goals
One of my favorite moments occurs when Choi realizes that Sun Woo must be using supernatural means to uncover all his sins. At one point, in one of the most hilarious moments in the drama, he himself is thrust back in time, and instead of being a crack businessman worth millions in the bank, he finds himself a scruffy old poor man running a cheap medical supply outlet store and eating the same junk lunch everyday. Ohl his face at that moment had me howling with laughter! This actor tends to play such oafs anyway in the K-dramas that I kind of lumped all his cold selfish villainous characters into this one in my mind and enjoyed seeing him get his comeuppance.
All through this drama you will be wondering: will that brain tumor really get Sun Woo in the end, or is there hope that when he goes back in time he might be able to solve the reason he started developing it in the first place, or get treatment early enough so that he won't have to die? What will happen when he runs out of incense sticks? Will there be any hope that his mother can come out of the sanitarium and live a normal life? Can he forgive people in his life who hurt him, most importantly his poor brother? Will all the time traveling hurt his relationship with pretty and patient Min-young, who still loves him? The questions will be answered, but the journey is the fun part of getting that crossword puzzle finished perfectly.
This show is such a masterpiece, matched by few others. Enjoy this extraordinary Korean drama!
Additional Review for Nine: Nine Time Travels (2013)
Korean Drama Review written by Richard, Ireland
Nine: Nine Time Travels (2013) is one of the very best time-travel series I have seen; it's up there with the finest Dr. Who story arcs. In many ways it is different, of course. Dr. Who emphasizes an ironic edge -- sometimes humorous, sometimes sad. Nine doesn't have that, but instead puts the focus on emotional depth and character growth.
Also as with the Dr. Who programs, it has an incredible, brilliantly original time machine -- but one that only an Asian could have thought of! This is not to say that it doesn't have action. It does. There are some incredible car chases and breath-taking fights and cliff-hanger conclusions to individual episodes.
The drama forms a nine section story arc which completes one set of incidents. In Episode 10 the process begins anew with certain loose-ends left from the first sequence becoming developed. It's a quite clever plot structure.
One of the things I find very impressive is the great camera work, making marvelous use of unusual angles and split screen shots. Further, these are never simply gimmicky but are cinematically relevant to the themes and/or situations being screened.
I watched the final disc sequence a couple of times. At first it seemed to me that the perfect ending had been achieved in that fantastic sequence when Min Young is suddenly transformed from a grieving daughter in black to a beautiful bride in white. We also see the changes that occur to the other characters including the evil doctor's demotion to the head of a seedy medical supply house. But that is not to be. And it really can't be, because the full Karma of the characters has not yet worked itself out, and cannot be until a dual cathartic tragedy is fulfilled.
But that is not the end either. That wonderful final episode reveals what the incense time machine really is. It is neither the blessing nor the curse Sun Woo thinks it is. His attempts to use it as a tool to create the future fail and thus he gains humility. The painful journey is a road to self understanding that frees him from the chains he has forged on himself, as he learns that his love for Min Young is the key to his destiny.
The hero becomes "new" and full of inner confidence. This is what makes the final scene so incredibly powerful. He radiates the power that comes from the new depth of understanding he has gained. Compare the rather self-absorbed character we see in the earlier sections with this dynamic man reaching down to save his brother.