Riding the trend of Korean action blockbusters after the phenomenally popular Swiri, Park Chan Wook directs this murder mystery thriller about death on the DMZ. The film opens with a shooting along the heavy militarized border between North and South Korea, which leaves a North Korean soldier (Shin Ha- Kyun) dead and a South Korean soldier injured. Hoping to reduce the potentially explosive political fallout by solving the crime quickly, both countries agree to an investigator of Korean-Swiss descent named Sophie Jean (Lee Yeong-Ae). As she methodically sifts through the evidence, Sophie learns that the testimony of two other soldiers -- North Korean Oh Kyeong Pil (Song Kang-Ho) and South Korean Lee Soo Hyeok (Lee Byung-Hun) -- are completely contradictory. Another witness (Kim Tae-Woo) tries to commit suicide rather than divulge information. Sophie soon concludes that a group of guards from the North and South, after years of eyeing each other, started meeting in the North Korean guard house to chat, fawn over porn, and to play cards. Why this informal détente dissolved into bloodshed is a thornier question. ~ Jonathan Crow, Rovi
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An undeniable truth...Park Chan Wook is a superlative director. The cinematography in this movie is fabulous and his use of colors, angles, and images is excellent. I watched this after having watched Oldboy, a simply mesmorizing epic. However, while Oldboy was sustained by an excellent and original plot, JSA's plot is more tedious and less captivating. Don't get me wrong: J.S.A. is still a very intriguing movie, at times poignant, at others funny, in which an important message is delivered. However, it is rather difficult to follow and is slow to start, which might put viewers off. Also, in a genre best suited to realism, the plot twists ring a little too absurd. Definitely worth a watch; nevertheless, Oldboy remains on another level.
I also watched this after seeing Oldboy. This is an earlier work and isn't as polished, but is still a good movie. It definetely reminded me of Basic with John Travolta which makes me wonder if they borrowed some of the concept from this film. I would recommend watching it in the original Korean and reading the subtitles, although there is some English spoken by the female lead that is sometimes painful to listen to. I hadn't realized how much the younger generation of South Koreans are questioning the division between North and South and this film brings a lot of my pre-conceptions into question. This film is a bit slow to start and I was recommended to folow up with Shiri (sometimes called Swiri) for more action.
I recommend watching this movie with the Korean audio and English subtitles instead of the English audio, which I think takes something away from the sentiment of the characters. The story is very original and very realistic of wartime. Worth the rental. This is not Park Chan-Wook's best, check out Lady Vengeance for a real gem.