Joint Security Area (2000)

CHAN-WOOK PARK

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

Original Title: Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA

, 2000. , , , , , , . Screenplay by , , , Chan-wook Park, based on the comic by and the novel by . Cinematography by . Produced by , Myeong-chan Park. Music by , . Production Design by , Sung-Bok Kim. Costume Design by . Film Editing by .

An incident in a bunker in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea is explosive enough to possibly bring the countries to war, with neither side willing to accept a joint investigation to get to the bottom of the mystery.  Instead they agree to it being examined by the neutral Swiss authority, who send a Korean born General () to look into what happened on a night when two Northern soldiers were killed and one southern soldier was caught on the Bridge of No Return on his way back to his side.  The latter says that he was their hostage and escaped, but a survivor from the North says that he burst in on them and shot them on sight.  Lee’s job is to figure out what happened and it’s made somewhat complicated by the fact that the physical evidence doesn’t match the mens’ stories, she’s counting bullets and finds that there is one unaccounted for.  A huge success when released in Korea, breaking that country’s box office records and establishing the career of filmmaker Park Chan-wook, this challenging military thriller provides all the excitement that the genre usually delivers while keeping the frilly glamour at a minimum.  It might not feel like a Ken Burns documentary but it does take its setting very seriously, presenting a country geographically split in two clean halves, but whose people are far more complex than their political situation will allow them to be.  For those unfamiliar with the country’s politics beyond the bare basics, this one makes you work pretty hard before you get caught up, but once you do you’ll find it was worth the effort.

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