Joint Security Area

Park Chan-wook
Film // August 3, 2016

Park Chan-wook’s Joint Security Area is a taut whodunit thriller, bogged down by a clunky structure. The main plot revolves around the circumstances as to how a South Korean soldier supposedly killed two North Korean border patrollers. The meat of the story is told in flashbacks, bookended by a meandering present day investigation into the deaths. The investigation is a slow and flat series of expositions, interjected with pointless side characters and subplots. Here and there, ideas about Swiss Army neutrality and American interventionism sneak in, but they feel roundabout and artificial. The clumsy execution leaks into the flashbacks too, where themes of friendship and loyalty just don’t quite connect.

Luckily, Park seems much more in his element in the thick of action. Hints of the Oldboy’s warped sense of humor paired with dynamic, confrontational shots shine through. While the actors and script fumble in defining ideology, Park’s camera speaks–daring to be brash and bold. Joint Security Area is a poorly composed film that nonetheless held hints of the Korean director’s genius.