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Well, this film has gotten very negative reviews, and I don't think that's all righteous. The story is rather thin, that's right, but it does not force itself with twists and turns like a lot of other films are doing. It's all about the psychology of the human mind, or maybe it is not.... I think the movie was effectively mysterious and darkly atmospheric and even creepy at times! If you like the Korean film R-POINT than I'm sure you will enjoy this one as well! I think ANTARCTIC JOURNAL was even better than R-POINT in fact! The cast delivers good performances especially Kang Ho-Song (MEMORIES OF MURDER, SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE) gives an impressing performance. This film is not brilliant, but it is worth checking out if you enjoy psychological creepy films!!
A ghost in Antarctica? Another girl with long black hair, covering her face, but she has no place to hang over from, no ceilings to walk on, except their small tents of course. Anyway, if you are open for something maybe not new, but a plot not worn out, Antactic Journal is quite the pleasant surprise. It's more of a mystery movie, will let you guessing, hard to predict the end (which is NOT a twist this time) but easy to realize where its heading. So just sit back, grab some popcorn, a beer or two and enjoy it, cause it has around 2 hours if I remember correctly.
The view is beautiful, all white, all silent, you can almost feel the cold. Shivers, shivers and an ocean of snow. I rated it 6, indeed not perfect, but nice to see something a tad bit different from time to time.
To answer someone who asked about the location, it was shot partly in New Zealand. I went to the place only because of this film and was quite amazed by what you got on screen in the end.
Also, a quick note about the Korean DVD: perfect piece of work containing info and perpetuating (English word?) the mystery.
'Antarctic Journal' is the latter, for although it delivers well in scares and dread, not to mention breathtaking scenery and good acting, it stands before the two paths of psychological thriller and horror, not knowing which one to take. Thus you are presented with situations that either really happen or are products of mental stress and/or decay. I chose the second option most of the time, and the way characters transform as the oppressive and increasingly bleak nature of their plight overwhelms them grips you more than any paranormal device the film tries to suggest.
Nonetheless, you can't set things up for no adequately explored reason, and that forces the plot to wade through murky waters at times. The ending could have been clearer too, but since the writers didn't quite know what story they were telling, it's probably inevitable. Nonetheless, the disparate parts do not seriously ruin the whole, and there's plenty to enjoy. Think of it as a really good 2nd draft that just needed some more work, but still shows lots of promise.
now i'll make things short 1. it's way to long (2hrs) and it doesn't deliver anything in the overtime 2. it starts great. really great. it slowly builds up a story and i just sat there and was all nervous bout what's gonna come my way.. to tell you the truth.. i still sat there waiting when the credits rolled :( 3. it wasn't scary and it wasn't very psychological either.. it had everything to get there.. but it just touched various moments and situations.. leaving em to die in the 'cold' (harhar).. and instead of lifting those moments up, they actually went nowhere.
someone said 'tales of two sisters' in an arctic setting.. no way! if i had to compare it to the greatness that is 'tots', this would vanish from the face of the earth instantly.. seriously! i'm watching lots of movies. also lots of Asian flicks. and i'm sure that if this one would've been a bit chopped.. faster paced at times.. lose all those 'we show you the same thing for the 3rd time now, to make sure we lower the scare-factor close to zero'.. skip a few of the blah-blah scenes.. and esp. follow what has been built up to the end.. it would've been a great movie.
now it's just 2hrs going nowhere.
The movie does sound like it could be worth a look, it has a decent cast, we got Ji-tae Yu whose always a solid actor, the movie also starts off promising enough, lending familiar elements from other horror/thriller of similar genres, such as "The Thing". Unfortunately the potential shortly outlives the expectations one would get from this kind of movie. Firstly, one cannot help but feel frustrated by the many "creepy" build ups which lead to nowhere (ie. a tense build up to what the audience perceives should obviously be a "scary" moment, but then that final "scare" part doesn't happen, only the build up). Secondly, the characters are spineless. Personally I find it very irritating in horror movies (unless they are of the humorous kind) when the characters act overly stupid. This movie certainly pushes the boundaries having seemingly brainless idiots in the narrative who cannot think for themselves and simply follow the orders of the so called team "captain" who has quite obviously gone nuts. Even more irritating is that the others agree not to use the "emergency" distress signal even after 2 members have died, because according to the captain it should only be kept for "real emergencies". There are also some discrepancies in regards to realism of this Antarctic trek, though the scenery is shot in a beautiful location, my guess is that real Antarctic is less forgiving and piloting helicopters, in Arctic blizzards to my knowledge among several other things, do not work.
In summary this is a very long and extremely frustrating movie which in the end, strays into many confusing paths, none of which lead to a satisfactory ending. If the brainless characters, the narrative suffering from an identity crisis or the slow pace do not put you off, then the 2 hour build-up to a very disappointing ending is sure to finish you off ^-^.
Several days into the mission, a weird little alien (?) eye peeks out of the food they're eating. A few days later, a big elephant/creature/whatever eye sits in a crevice, staring at the luckless schmuck that fell into it right after attacking the annoying glasses-wearing nerd. (What's a nerd doing on a polar expedition?). Both those scenes are early on in AJ, setting the viewer up for a supernatural horror mystery. Or?
Think again. This could have been yet another drama about a man's descent into madness, had they taken out those two scenes, and perhaps one or two others that carry supernatural implications. For some strange reason, AJ (no relation to the putz from that boy band) almost completely neglects the supernatural in the second half, focusing instead solely on the "Captain" and the very obvious fact that he'd lost all of his marbles at some point.
Well, at least it should have been obvious though not to the remaining three team-members. For whatever reasons, they kept following his suicide-mission orders with a minimum of fuss or skepticism until it was (predictably) too late. The act of cutting off the rope holding one of their team-members hanging in the crevice: that alone should have sounded alarm bells in their polar-exploring/snow-loving heads, not to mention his subsequent behaviour (half of which would have been enough to land him in a loony bin for a lengthy period of time). The way that actor plays the Captain - it should have been plain as day that he'd gone insane, and yet these other guys only reach agreement on this piece of bleedin'-obvious trivia once they arrive at the British hut. Perhaps this is a Korean thing, dunno, to be loyal to your superior(s) until the bitter end. That would certainly help explain the almost unique phenomenon of North Koreans not putting up much resistance against one of the harshest tyrannies in human history, whereas that same government would have been brought down a long time ago in any European country and I mean ANY. (Not even the Russians would have tolerated it.) The way they all follow "Captain" into what is evidently a pointless suicide mission might be therefore more logical, or at least more familiar, to Korean viewers. I am not having a go at Koreans, but merely speculating.
It is a pity that the source of Captain's insanity wasn't explored more. Merely suggesting that "Antarctica drove him mad", or that his kid fell from the 14th floor many years ago, is not good enough. The parallels to the fate of the 1922 British expedition, the journal, the hallucinations, and of course the two bizarre eyes: all of these are just much-too-small parts in a much larger puzzle which the movie simply won't allow us to put together, or to at least know where to begin. I don't think that a movie of this kind should either serve us ALL of the answers on a plate as if treating the viewers like a bunch of avatards, nor do I believe that the vagueness should go too far in the other direction. The brilliance of movies that strike a balance a fine line between these two extremes cannot be overstated. Clearly, AJ has failed in this. Perhaps it was lazy writing, perhaps it was a lack of ideas how to resolve the movie's grand enigma, or perhaps the writer thought that utter confusion would eventually lead the viewer into some kind of a deep Buddhist trance that would help make all of this comprehensible on some deeper religious or (and I absolutely detest using this word) spiritual (yuck) level.
Ultimately, AJ's strengths lie in the beautiful landscapes, the mood, the solid soundtrack, the several fairly memorable scenes, and the sense of mystery. The slow pace will definitely put off avatards and other jamesocameronian riff-raff, but I didn't feel as if there was any tedium. The letdown, as is so often the case, is that the mystery was just a paper-tiger, a parlor trick, a gimmick to keep you interested for the duration. The movie has no real conclusion; it's far too open for interpretation, as open as the pooka of a 59 year-old prostitute, i.e. too vague to make any sense - apart from any subjective drivel that any ambitious/hopeful viewer might very pretentiously/optimistically/deludedly offer as an explanation. Looking forward to reading the other comments here for the usual silly theories!
A solid try, but next time more work should go into the script and the basic premise. Perhaps injecting a POINT to everything might help. AJ does not have an open ending it has NO ending. You can't go off into too many directions within the framework of one single story. Take one direction and run with it. Or walk slowly with it through snow; that works too.