Rating: 8/10
Year: 2000
Genre: Suspense
Director: Park Chan-Wook
Cast: Song Kang-Ho, Lee Yeong-Ae, Lee Byung-Heon

Joint Security Area is the highest invested film in Korean film history, it is also one of the highest grossed films in Korea ever. It was released in Korea in 2000 and received immediate success due to its controversial subject and the director's decisive critique on the issue.

This film is about a mysterious murder case involving several soldiers who are camping at the border of South and North Korea, an area known as Joint Security Area. One night, two North Korean soldiers were shot to death. A South Korean soldier (Lee Byung-Heon) is the prime suspect. The investigation is carried out by a neutral party headed by Sophie (Lee Young-Ae). Sophie soon discovers that it is not merely a brutal murder, the case is more complicated than she expected as there is a clandestine relationship among several South and North Korean soldiers.

What makes this film interesting is that the director is able to break the political taboo and deal with the issue in an honest yet peaceful manner. Tension is turned to humors and then to suspense, the director is good at controlling the atmosphere of the story and revolving the reaction of the audience, hence, the film succeeds in raising certain discourse regarding the current situation in Korea and elicits positive responses from the Korean people. For instance, the ending snapshot is a very important motif of the film. It symbolizes the theme successfully. What the director wants to convey is that although South Korea and North Korea are separated, there is nothing that can stop the people of the two countries from getting together. Korea is one nation after all. Fate will put them together no matter what. From the depiction of the intimate friendship among the soldiers, Park Chan-Wook tells us how anxious the Koreans long for reunion of the nation.

Song Kang-Ho is always a supporting character in other films. In JSA, he is finally able to take the lead role, and he gives excellent performance to substantiate his capability. His role as the North Korean officer beats Lee Byung Heon in terms of every aspect. The bodily gestures, emotions and dialogues are all carried out persuasively. It is no wonder why he could capture various best actor awards with this film. Lee Young-Ae speaks fluent English in the film and succeeds in building up a convincing image of the NNSC officer.

This film is shot in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The resulted image is so beautiful and serene that you will almost forget you are watching a narrative film. The filmmaker has created a tangible world for the film and heightens the artistic value brilliantly.

No matter you are Korean or not, there are always something you can gain from watching this film.

DVD (HK version) - The picture quality is not bad, I am not sure if it is in the original 2.35:1 format or not, but it looks like widescreen to me. Nevertheless, I don't have a 16x9 TV and I heard that this DVD is not real 16:9. For the sound, its ok, but I am not certain if it is my audio system or what, I have to turn up the volume quite a bit to get the desired quality. Overall speaking, with the region free coding, all the speical features and bonus materials(postcards and booklet), this DVD is definitely worth to buy!

Cool guy(s) - Song Kang-Ho

Reviewed by: Kantorates