JSA - Joint Security Area (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD]
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Korean anti-war drama, set on the volatile Demilitarised Zone between the South and the communist North of the country. After a confused incident at night, where both sides open fire at each other, one North Korean soldier is killed and a South Korean soldier is injured. Hoping to avoid an escalation in the crisis, both sides agree to allow neutral Korean-Swiss investigator Sophie Jean (Li Yeong-Ae) look into the case. When she discovers discrepancies in the amount of bullets fired from each soldier's gun that night, and when witnesses try to commit suicide rather than talk to her, Jean realises that the truth behind the shooting is much more explosive.
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I would recommend this film to anybody.
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 (The Harmonium in My Memory, A Bittersweet Life) 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.
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?
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