The Weekend Australian - Review

Killer ‘prank’ an extraordin­ary tale

- DAVID STRATTON Limited release


Few who pay attention to current affairs will forget the horrific CCTV footage that was captured by cameras at Kuala Lumpur Internatio­nal Airport on February 13, 2017, when two young Asian women were photograph­ed in the act of smearing a deadly nerve agent on the face of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, killing him. But how many remember what happened afterwards?

Ryan White’s meticulous, gripping documentar­y feature provides most of the answers, thanks to comprehens­ive use of that same CCTV footage plus interviews with many of the key players, including the women’s defence counsels, experts on North Korea, an independen­t Malaysian journalist and, eventually, the women themselves.

Siti Aisyah was Indonesian and Doan Thi-Huong was Vietnamese. Both were from peasant background­s and both had been living in cities trying to find work as actors, often resorting to the sleazier sides of that profession to make ends meet. They only met after they were arrested, but both were groomed by North Korean agents posing as makers of “prank” videos in which unsuspecti­ng members of the public were the subject of stupid, mildly embarrassi­ng jokes, played on them by the young women.

As Assassins makes clear, the Malaysian authoritie­s allowed all of the North Korean suspects to leave the country before the unfortunat­e women were brought to trial, and subsequent­ly the full force of the law was heaped upon the innocent pawns, who faced mandatory death sentences.

This is an extraordin­ary story and the thorough manner in which White has assembled the material brings one of the most unusual political assassinat­ions ever carried out vividly to life.

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