‘Phantom’ (2023) Ending Explained & Film Summary: Is Governor General Dead?


It is hard to say why some movies turn out to be as dull as they are. On paper, the stories are good enough, the actors have both acting and star value, and there is also an audience willing to give them a chance. But things just don’t work out. In the case of Phantom, we blame the confusing screenplay for some of the dullness of the movie. Another guilty party could also be the subtitles, which just did not seem to be able to translate the essence of the dialogue to get the message right to non-Korean viewers. We genuinely wanted to like Phantom, but the movie let us down majorly. It simply did not know how to keep its finger on the pulse of the viewer, and while we don’t know whether it is a true adaptation of the book it is based on, we couldn’t help ourselves from wanting something different. Either way, here is a recap and ending of the film.

Spoiler Alert

Why do Takahara and Murayama not get along?

Takahara and Murayama are fanatics of the Japanese government, except that Murayama finds himself at a disadvantage since his mother was a Korean national. She was the only Korean in a long line of Japanese, and that is considered enough of a reason by the Japanese government to consider Murayama a potential traitor. His mother had killed his father when she believed that he was going to harm Joseon, and Murayama claimed that he had retaliated by killing his mother, which he says should prove his loyalty to the empire. But the truth is that Murayama did not kill his mother with his own hands. He had watched as she shot herself. Either way, his loyalty is still with the Japanese government, but he cannot convince them of it. He was supposed to have Takahara’s job, but that was taken away from him at the last minute, probably because of doubts regarding his loyalties. Even Takahara never loses a chance to taunt him regarding it, and he makes it clear to Murayama that he never trusted him.

Who Are The Shadow Corps And Phantoms?

Shadow Corps is a covert organization that works to destabilize the Japanese government through spies called Phantoms, working undercover. Their current mission is to kill the Japanese Governor General, and they communicate with each other through movie posters. The man running the cinema is Korean, and he is also a part of the organization that facilitates this communication. Sadly, their mission to kill the governor is a failure, and the spy is killed while escaping. But the officer understands that there is someone else working with the spy. They are aware of the Shadow Corps, and they are the ones to be first suspected. The officer was under the impression that the Shadow Corps had been completely eradicated, but this failed attempt at the Governor General’s life was proof that they still had a unit running in the city. A little investigation brings out the anomaly of the cinema hall, which is the only one to be run by a Korean national. With that one clue, the rest of the mechanism of the organization comes undone, and Takahara narrows down the organization to five suspects: Park Chakyung, Yuriko, Baekho, Cheon Eunho, and Murayama. He says that he is sure that one of them is Phantom, and unless he finds out who it is by noon the next day, he will torture and kill all of them, one by one.

Who Are The Phantoms?

Murayama is understandably offended by the question raised about his loyalties, but he is powerless in that situation. Then there is Yuriko, who is absolutely furious at being in that situation since she is not just the Governor General’s secretary but also his lover. She comes to know that it was her boss who wanted her investigated, and that means that she has lost his favor and has already been replaced by someone else. We have Eunho, who is a brilliant man but is desperate to get home because he needs to feed his cat. Finally, it is evident from the start that Chakyung is the Phantom, and Baekho discovers that, though he agrees to keep it a secret.

All of them need to shift the suspicion to someone else to get out of the place, and the one who manages to do it is Yuriko. She knows about the recording devices all over the place, and she talks with Eunho about how Murayama tried to frame Chakyung so he should be the Phantom. Elsewhere, Murayama and Chakyung get into a terrible fight, and the man admits to being the Phantom, but he is clearly lying to get Chakyung to trust him.

Takahara, who is listening to it all, is no fool, and he knows how to assess the situation with a grain of salt. The next day, when everyone is sitting in one place, he shoots Baekho after threatening him with his mother’s life and forcing him to give up the name of the Phantom. That is when we get a revelation (one that we had predicted) that Yuriko is also a Phantom. She and Chakyung escape the room, and they try to figure out how to get out of the area. Sadly, Yuriko is captured while trying to make way for Chakyung, and she ends up being brutally tortured. But Chakyung doesn’t abandon her and comes back to her rescue. In the meantime, Takahara is killed by Murayama, and even the other suspects die in the fights that take place.

Do the Phantoms Kill the Governor General?

Murayama knows about the plan to kill the Governor General, and he is right that it won’t stop despite Chakyung and Yuriko. They were not the only ones involved in the plan, and the rest of the troops will certainly try to act on their intentions. As expected, the Phantoms are there in the auditorium, and Murayama has Nanyoung and the projectionist of the theater ready to be killed. But it is at that time that Chakyung and Yuriko come to the hall, all guns blazing, ready to kill the traitors and protect those they love. They are not able to save their comrade, but Nanyoung and the projectionist are safe. The two even manage to kill Murayama, and while the Governor General is still safe, the Phantoms have accomplished something.

While the action of this scene is perfectly stylized, we were especially impressed by the camerawork. On the list of factors that made the movie dull, the camerawork is not one of them. It creates the necessary intrigue with minimal setting and actually enhances the work of the actors to its full potential. But none of it is compensation for a weak script. The Governor General goes on to fulfill his duties and make his special appearances. It looks like the Shadow Corps’ mission has failed, but at the end of Phantom, Chakyung and Yuriko step out of an alley with their guns and successfully kill the Governor General. The organization is still active and as dedicated as ever to gaining Korean independence.

In the entire movie, our favorite scene was when the two women were smoking, and Chakyung said that she would quit the habit if Joseon became free. But Yuriko counters that smoking will be more fun when they do it as free Korean citizens. In many ways, it shows us how the spies, despite living a life of untruths and deception, carry a certain abandon and recklessness in them that makes them more free than anyone else we know, and it is perhaps the essence of the film.

Final Thoughts

When we read the description of the film, we assumed that the entire thing would unfold in the way of 12 Good Men or something similar. But we had been ready to accept the difference; however, we were unwilling to compromise on the quality and pace of the storytelling, which is why we failed to enjoy Phantom. But there is that thing where we can see the potential of the story and would love to see it get another chance, perhaps with a sharper edit and a more engaging storyline.

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Divya Malladi
Divya Malladi
Divya spends way more time on Netflix and regrets most of what she watches. Hence she has too many opinions that she tries to put to productive spin through her writings. Her New Year resolution is to know that her opinions are validated.

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