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Joint Security Area (KOREA 2001)

Director : Park Chan Wook
Cast : Yeong-ae Lee, Byung-hun Lee, Kang-ho Song, Tae-woo Kim and Ha-kyun Shin.

In the DMZ separating the Koreas, peace is as fragile as the wooden bridge linking North and South. When two North Korean soldiers are killed, supposedly by one South Korean soldier, it threatens to ignite a full-scale conflict. An impartial Swiss intelligence team is sent to investigate and they quickly find flaws in the official version of events. Why were 16 bullets found at the crime scene when the assassin’s gun housed only 15 rounds? It’s a race to uncover the truth as tensions rise at the most heavily armed border on Earth.

by Edward Tang

Park Chan Wook has easily produced the best string of Vengeance-plotted films in existence, starting with Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance to Oldboy and he might do the same in his 2005 release of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. I found both films to be completely out of the ordinary and quite the punch that cinema needed. They not only included a great story, but had excellent performances and direction. I didn’t know of anything else he made, until I rented JSA yesterday, and I can say that Mr. Vengeance himself, can now be labeled as Mr. Genius. This film is based on the DMZ that separates North and South Korea (craftily remade in a studio, nicely done might I add), and relationships between such. The film packs a heavy punch, and gives a more simplistic reveal than other films that you might expect from ParkChan-wook , but the results are always deadly.

Two North Korean Soldiers are killed supposedly by one South Korean soldier. Into notice of this, a neutral officer is sent to investigate. After searching for evidence, they find that the South Korean’s gun could only fire 15, yet there were 16 fired at the scene of the crime. Suspecting something is up as in a cover up of such but when they find out, they realize that it is more simple, yet tragic.

In saying that, I didn’t really expect much from the film. It basically lacked in a controlled plot, because I understood the message from what it was trying to say, but all the other details seemed to have been mentioned, so nothing was as of a surprise or concern to me. The story was damn good other than the few problems, to try and humanize the entire situation between the two feuding sides, rather than to make one side seem more deadly or there forth. The beginning of this film led me to believe that what would continue would be another “search for mysteries type shit that has been beaten to death. The way they introduce us to the characters and show how they eventually gain bonds with one another is good as well, meaning that you actually give a damn whether or not people die.

The spoiler in mention, the sort of “twist” toward the story isn’t really drawn out, there isn’t a surprise ending, more of an emotionally charged feel. Acting isn’t a problem either, everyone was good for the most part (I’ll mention the bad in a few). The bonds of friendship that are built amongst the hate between nations is well done by both parties. Park’s contribution is shown, we see our ending and when we get into the story, we kind of don’t understand what and why it happened. But as we see it, it truly is the most powerful moment of the film (I’m trying to keep the “surprise”), guns pointed and a sheer heart pounding moment. Another thing that was a positive, this film seemed to jet by, nothing was ever boring, and the conclusion served sort of as a dual purpose, to give us a notion of the history surrounding both North and South Korea, and the thoughts of in how and if they will ever combine back together.

The only thing that could be of mention to the negative side, was the fact that they hired some horrible foreign talent to head up their “Swedish” department. The other only thing I could complain about, is how the film skips back and forth quickly, and it got confusing until I found out what happened. But I’ve seen a few documentaries, and the full notice of this film seems to be what everyone seems to speak of, not “if” both sides will combine, but when.

It’s a good film, worth a view for everyone, but it might lack in power if you see it a second time. It’s a fairly simple message that probably opened a few eyes, and you should see it for everything it deals out.

Plot : 4/5
Acting : 3/5
Entertainment : 4/5
Overall : 4/5

Notable Scenes
- the reveal of the true events at the base

Buy this movie at YesAsia – Joint Security Area

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