5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There are always two sides to every story
Finally, JSA gets a release in the United Kingdom. This was the film that shattered all the box office records in South Korea and launched Park Chan-wook's career. After reading so many positive reviews for this film I guess I was expecting it to be a bit of a let down. I'm glad it lived up to all the hype.
The story is based along the Korean Demilitarized Zone...
Published on 16 Jun 2005 by bobby_bobson
0 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars AWFUL watch Oldboy
I couldnt even get through the first 20 mins of this film the acting was just that bad. This defines abismal b-movie. Whatever you do dont buy it get Oldboy if you want to watch a great korean film.
Published on 27 Feb 2010 by Theodore Bear
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There are always two sides to every story,
The story is based along the Korean Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. One night a South Korean Soldier is found struggling to get out of North Korean territory after shoots were heard. It is believed that the soldier killed two North Korean's and injured one other. The South Koreans naturally praise the soldier as a hero but the North Koreans want justice. A Korean speaking investigator is sent in from the Swiss/Swedish UN team to find out what happened that night. Her investigation leads here to discover the history of both the surviving soldiers involved.
When the film starts off you get the feeling that you're going to watch a film very similar to 'Courage Under Fire'. We get the two versions of what happened by the usual flashback sequences and follow the UN investigator in her interrogations. We are then thrown back a few months to an incident which leads to the night of the shootings. Now this is where the film really succeeds. We are given the history between the soldiers involved which adds a great twist to the story. What makes this movie a joy to watch has to be due to the two lead characters. Lee Byung-hun (Sympathy For Mr Vengeance, Save The Green Planet) does an excellent job portraying the young South Korean soldier but it's Song Kang-ho (Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Memories of Murder, Shiri) who steals the show as the surviving North Korean soldier who strangely seems unwilling to talk about what happened.
Park Chan-wook directs the film perfectly as always. He does an excellent job at showing the division of North and South Korea. Much of this is done by fancy camera work and character interaction. It's the little touches Park adds that makes this movie rise above the rest (the final image before the credits is a fine example). As always with his films, Park manages to add a large amount of style by using fancy camera angles and editing techniques. This style never overshadows the most important thing which is the story.
Overall this is a thought provoking and at times touching film. Tartan has done a great job at presenting this DVD in a two disc special edition (even if it was a bit overdue). A must own for anyone, especially Park Chan-wook fans.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wind Of Change Will Eventually Come To Pass,
Park Chan-Wook's superbly crafted anti-war flick is also a riveting political thriller with many surprises in the plot twists that ultimately challenges the delineation of the two opposing countries. JSA is not interested in blowing people up, it's more concerned with human relations and questioning archaic political stances that have divided Korea for more than fifty years. The complex characters are intellectually engaging without being convoluted as they carry the fundamental message of just how tragic the conflict between citizens with the same ethnic background has deteriorated through ill-advised dictatorship - as shown by Oh Kyeong-Pil's explosive patriotic rant for his leader Kim Jong Il, whilst simultaneously, rejecting his friendship with the South Korean soldier in custody intent on saving both their lives; which incidentally is one of the most magnificent scenes ever performed by Kang-Ho Song.
There's also a lot of fun to be had along the way as Park Chan-Wook deftly handles the camera; going through the scope of one soldiers rifle. Another scene has the camera set up in a minefield capturing the long grass swaying with an eerie wind whistling highlighting to the viewer that this is indeed the dead zone; or, is it a visual metaphor depicting the long agonizing wait before the wind of change will eventually come to pass?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Skip over the abysmal English acting and you'll find an outstanding Korean drama,
This review is from: Joint Security Area  [DVD] (DVD)All of the stuff that includes the English language is disposable and sees the film and the director at his very worst; the inability to deliver the lines with any heft near enough cripples the film in these moments. Any scene dependent on Yeong-ae Lee is horrible. When she disappears and the film centres on what happened 'that night' and the film bursts into life as a fascinating drama that depicts the mind-set of the everyday Korean, away from political allegiances. It supposes that division is not a temporary, the Korean people will eventually find themselves as one due to the actions of people like those found here. Whats more it's very funny, the camaraderie between the men and how they are implicitly drawn and acted by the brilliant cast is endlessly engaging. Lee Byung-hun, Kang Ho-Song and Shin Ha-Kyu are all superb. Then there is the inventive, stylish camera work the Korean director has become renowned for. If only the English speaking segments stick their noses into proceedings, I wouldn't have any issue calling this Park Chan-Wook's best film. As is, the best all I can say is: this is where the director found his voice, where all the tropes he is known for started to take form. This is where Park Chan-Wook started to be a vital voice in the world of cinema, and right here he wasn't for from the director to see today, close but no cigar.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A film that can be watched over and over and never lose it's appeal,
This review is from: Joint Security Area  [DVD] (DVD)When I first saw Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance I knew Park Chan-Wook was a director to look out for. I've now seen all of his other films that I could get my hands on - Oldboy, Lady Vengeance, Cut [Three...Extremes]; but it was Joint Security Area which I felt compelled to see the most
A tense thriller which keeps you guessing till the end. When two North Korean soldiers are shot dead by a South Korean soldier in the DMZ, a neutral investgative team is set up to find out what happened - but both sides blame each other for it, and work to ensure that whatever really happened is covered up.
I've seen this film countless times and never get tired of it. It's not a film like The Usual Suspects where repeated watching reveals hints towards plot twist, but for some reason as soon as I finish watching it I want to see it again. An outstanding film from an oustanding director.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Watch it,
By A Customer
A few things which I wish they were rectified before the release of the film:
1. Very poor character building on all Swiss/Swedish mediators including the main female mediator character whose parents are Korean and Swiss(?). (Often the case in many East Asian films, I seem to find.) They just appear a bunch of sleazy white blond men for no apparent reason.
Despite above, I would think it is very worth watching.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best foreign topical films ever made,
After the prologue, the film develops into something else altogether. The instant emotional provocation in which you see these characters from North and South Korea suddenly become human, normal and relatable. Despite not having the best picture quality, the film brings to life what its like as Korean soldiers and on the border well at least that is how I would view it.
The English speaking actors in the film are passable but don't expect a great deal and their roles aren't fully fleshed out like it could have been.
Nonetheless JSA as a Film Student is one of the finest films I have ever seen. It is not perfect but it compensates these imperfections with raw emotion and a sense of humanity. Very very recommended.
4.0 out of 5 stars Very effective- but no Oldboy,
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This review is from: Joint Security Area  [DVD] (DVD)Park Chan-Wook has created a brilliant, suspenseful film in "JSA":it is an effective and often very moving summary of North-South Korean relations. To a western audience it might seem a rather by-the-books Cold War thriller: certainly it lacks the complexity and sheer surrealist brilliance of Park's later film, Oldboy. But it achieves a level of depth that is truly admirable, and the last scene cannot fail to move its audience.
A very solid, very enjoyable thriller let down only in the sense that Park surpasses it so thoroughly in his next work. Still, highly recommended to those who are fans of Park Chan-Wook, Thrillers, War movies, Detective flicks, or all of the above.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, surprising, entertaining, tender and deep.,
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US movies RIP.
4.0 out of 5 stars Yet another brilliant Korean film,
Added to the fact that Korean film at the moment seems to be on a bit of a roll (thinking just of Shiri, Oldboy and Brotherhood, for example), JSA is obviously off to a good start.
And the film doesn't disappoint.
OK, there are a few 'weirdnesses' in it. As others have said - the Swiss Korean investigator is obviously a plot device.
But the film is generally so good that it overcomes that kind of problem. It's deep and complex, good to look at, well-acted, nuanced (the South Koreans aren't all goodies, the Northerners aren't all monsters) and is based on a unique situation.
Worth watching twice? Probably not. Once you know the ending, I doubt you'd get any great value from watching it again. But it's a great film nonetheless.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BACK TOWARDS FRONT,
By all accounts this should have been just a straight mystery / thriller with on the spot topicality dealing with one of the most dangerous places on Earth right now: North and South Korea and their DMZ. Here in the United States we have the DMV, and while the two can't be compared - it's as close as we can come to imagining a line that runs down the middle between those that have everything and those that have nothing to lose. This is a movie that should have been filled with guns, tanks, rockets, missiles, barking special operatives, red and blue wires and a final countdown. And J.S.A. does have these moments, but they're mostly in the background.
Instead, what we have here is a love story. Perhpas not in the traditional sense, but a love story all the same. And while it's boy meets boy - it's not meant to be homoerotic but instead patriotic. This is a political love story where two sides to the same coin meet along the edge and try to come to an understanding that neither of their governments, or leaders, can agree to. The South has everything, but feels empty. While the North has next to nothing, yet is filled with dreams (sweet dreams in fact - you'll know what I mean when it happens).
J.S.A. has all the trademarks of a love story. There's a "cute meet" scene between our leads. There's a goofy sidekick, a dog, a buddy / pal, two families in opposition keeping our "meant to be's" apart (who proceed to steal away each night to be together), a soundtrack, a catch phrase (of a sort - it's repeated several times in the film), food, a breaking down of walls... and then violence, scarifice, and the aforementioned tragedy. It's a dark and disturbing ending which works to draw you to the central point of the film - love hurts... no, just kidding.
The point is an old one. It's a classic. You can find it in any Civil War and you can find it in the DMZ between North and South Korea - no house, no home, no land or its people can remain divided forever. Like Hong Kong to China, like East and West Germany - at some point, sooner than we might want to imagine, the DMZ is going to have to be erased... and J.S.A. is pointing to this line and trying to rub it away (the group photo scene, both of them, are the stand out shots here - a great moment).
The central story here works. The wrap around staggers and stumbles a bit as it comes across too much like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. But taken all together it helps to keep the movie clicking. Production values are excellent and the performances from the leads draw and involve you. Stick with the original voice track as the dub version sounds as bad as a GODZILLA film.
J.S.A. promises everything on its cover (helicopters!, explosions!, fireballs!, a raging inferno!, and a tag line so old it's drawing social security: HE CROSSED THE BRIDGE OF NO RETURN! Aaaaaiiieeeee!), but gives twice as much, and twice as good, once you get inside. Excellent film. Highly recommended.
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Joint Security Area  [DVD] by Chan-Wook Park (DVD - 2007)