Based on a true story and a legendary Korean novel, this movie follows Detective Oh (superstar Lee Jung Jae) and his investigation into the mysterious murder of a North Korean. His ... See full summary »
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Based on a true story and a legendary Korean novel, this movie follows Detective Oh (superstar Lee Jung Jae) and his investigation into the mysterious murder of a North Korean. His investigation leads him to a diary, which was written by a nun who - along with her boyfriend - helped lead the escape of North Korean POWs held captive during the Korean War. Detective Oh eventually becomes emotionally involved with the case and pursues the writer of the diary and her long-lost boyfriend, hoping to crack the case and learn more about the story of the POWs. Written by
While this film's "two movies in one" structure has a lot of potential, it is probably the main reason the movie doesn't come off better. It spreads itself too thin, and ends up being only sporadically effective. The present-days police story segments are rather bland; the investigative process isn't handled with much (for lack of a better word) flair, and Detective Oh, other than unexplored hints of "cop on the edge" syndrome, isn't much more than a handsome tough guy. Time that could've been used on character or plot, or excised completely to keep up the pace, is used on well-executed but pointless action scenes involving apprehending characters whose involvement is only tangential. The flashback scenes fare somewhat better as they aren't something we've seen a million times, and are also responsible for the film's highlight, an escape from a prison camp. It also seems to be the part the director was most interested in, given how much flashier it is than anything before or after it. One wishes that Bae had taken as much care with scenes in offices and cars as he did with scenes about people being cut down. Unfortunately, the flashbacks overall are too rushed to really flesh out the characters, and tend to wallow in slightly excessive melodrama, which isn't helped by the not-bad but utterly generic score. The resolution is actually fairly surprising, and could've been quite dramatic. Unfortunately, the director's poor choices in use of screen time makes what could've been a very satisfying and emotional resolution fairly flat. The final scene also pushes credibility too far in the name of melodrama, making it seem ridiculous. That's not to say it's a terrible movie. Only a few parts stand out as really hitting the wrong notes. However, in this case the whole is less than the sum of its parts, because they aren't assembled properly. It's an ambitious project and a good try at something different, but it just didn't quite work for me as a whole either viscerally or emotionally.
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