Storyville: The Mole – Infiltrating North Korea
- Brian Donaldson
- 13 October 2020
An intrepid spy mission which takes place over the best part of a decade
The Mole is a real-life James Bond story with hidden-ish cameras and fizzy drinks replacing dry martinis. For the old-school 007 admirers, there is a plethora of dancing, singing and saxophone-playing girls but they are more awkward than seductive. Glitz and glamour are certainly not what you immediately associate with North Korea, where brutality and oppression are rumoured to be the default setting for the reign of Kim Jong-un.
Yet, the weirdly-barneted tyrant has his admirers across Europe with the KFA (Korean Friendship Association) acting as the way in for an intrepid spy mission which takes place over the best part of a decade. Former Danish chef Ulrich Larsen is the unlikely hero of this highly risky endeavour as he wriggles his way into the KFA's trust, later uncovering some dodgy arms dealings which are shameless busting of UN sanctions.
In this film by Mads Brügger (who narrates the action and is filmed off-camera which seems unnecessary especially when, without any fanfare, he reveals himself at the finale), Larsen is helped by an actor who dons either a twirly moustache or huge beard to play 'Mr James', with both pretending to be knee-deep in weapons development for shady forces planning to attack Israel.
This is all highly irregular stuff, with one or two disturbing twists in the tale, but the threat of danger is never fully ramped up, despite the best intentions of Trump and Kim playing pathetic war games in the background. We know from the start that Larsen and co will get out of there alive, unlike American student Otto Warmbier whose crime of stealing a propaganda poster eventually led to his torture and death.
BBC Four, Tuesday 13 October, 9pm; watch now on BBC iPlayer.