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JSA: Joint Security Area (2000)

Cast: Song Kang-Ho, Song Kang-Ho, Kim Tae-woo, more...
Director: Park Chan-wook, Park Chan-wook
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Tai Seng
Genre: Drama, Foreign, Korea, War
Running Time: 120 min.
Languages: Korean
Subtitles: English
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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, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Not Old Boy caliber by friscodave January 3, 2006 - 11:08 AM PST
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful
I rented this film because I thought Old Boy was one of the best films I've seen in the past year. But for those of you who also really enjoyed Old Boy, this earlier Park Chan-Wook work is dissappointing. Granted, the film is beautifully shot and choreographed, but the story is simply long, boring, and ultimately unsatisfying. It's a story about north and south Korean soldiers who become friends despite their countries mutual antipathy. Western viewers can understand the oerilous dynamic between them, but do not make any sort of emotional connection with the characters. Therefore, this film may be more meaningful for those who have a personal experience with Korean culture and politics.

Korea by talltale September 28, 2004 - 7:37 AM PDT
4 out of 5 members found this review helpful
JOINT SECURITY AREA is pretty amazing, but the less said about the plot, the more enjoyment, surprise and emotional connection you'll probably make with this unusual movie. When a country has been as divided as has Korea for the past half-century, a movie like this must have really knocked the socks off of a lot of South Koreans (I doubt it could be shown in the North). I'm trying to think of some equivalently themed American film, but nothing comes to mind. "A Midnight Clear"--or a film about comradeship on either side of, say, America's Civil War-- just couldn't provide the sense of long-term division/separation that Korea has experienced. I think it was poet W.H. Auden who said something to the effect that, given the choice between betraying his country or his friend, he hoped he would have the sense to betray his country. JSA brings new resonance to that idea. Beautifully filmed, with flashbacks and varied points-of-view, this puzzle movie begins like an espionage thriller but eventually morphs into something more profound, offering its most telling and moving moments toward the end. The last shot is astonishing: simple and reminiscent, but now seen with enough clarity and irony to open mouths and overflow tear ducts.

Jointly Secured Boredom by eggshape August 30, 2004 - 10:11 PM PDT
2 out of 4 members found this review helpful
Do not let the cover fool you into expectations of delicious mayhem and gun-glory. I was hoping for a union of "Shiri" plus "First Blood" with a bit of "Predator", considering that the Korean border is the most heavily armed in the world. Perhaps the "Suspense/Thriller" genre under which JSA is listed should have redlighted my choice, but I chose and I watched and I nearly fell asleep. However, it is interesting that the director chose to portray the divided Koreas as a divided family, with soldiers on each side more like brothers than enemies. The movie even goes so far as to suggest that Outsiders are responsible for the current detente. Technically, it is very well done as a mystery and there are some interesting scenes concerning the 38th parallel. So if you are into watching guards watching something, or want to learn how to fortify an imaginary line, or like watching an beautiful fully-Korean actress pretend she is a half-Swiss military officer, then you should rent this political kimchinema.

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(Average 6.91)
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