The Pavilion shopping centre in Kuala Lumpur seems an odd place to open a story of murder and geopolitical espionage. But Ryan White’s Assassins is a curious film, a no-frills documentary about a crime of outlandish aspect. The victim is Kim Jong Nam, paternal half-brother of Kim Jong Un, and here you may remember some of the story.
In February 2017, exiled after a trip to Tokyo Disneyland, the potential rival to the young overlord of North Korea was attacked in plain sight by two assailants at Kuala Lumpur airport. He was dead within an hour from a nerve agent rubbed into his face, and the whole scene was captured on CCTV, replayed here. Likewise the attempted getaway of the killers. Some way from stone-faced thugs, they were a pair of seemingly ordinary young women, Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong. Aisyah was a massage therapist from Jakarta, Huong an aspiring Vietnamese actress. Her T-shirt read: “LOL”. On being arrested, each looked baffled. The charges carried the death sentence.
Yes, there is a lot to cover. Frustrating then that the film feels like a skim, with detail raced through then stacked to one side: the palace intrigue of Pyongyang, the friendship of Aisyah and Huong as the courtroom beckoned, the murk of south-east Asian realpolitik.
On digital platforms in the UK from January 29