JSA: Joint Security Area (2000)

In 2009, director Quentin Tarantino placed JSA amongst his top twenty films since 1992. Directed by Park Chan-wook, who also made Oldboy, this film tells the tale of a fatal shooting within the DMZ that exists between the borders of North and South Korea.

At one point the highest-grossing film in Korean history, JSA is the story of the fragile friendship that starts between four soldiers who are on opposite sides. Yet why did two of the North’s soldiers get killed and why are the stories so inconsistent? That’s what a neutral Swiss team of investigators wants to figure out.

Sergeant Lee Soo-hyeok (Lee Byung-hun, Storm Shadow in the G.I. Joe movies) is a South Korean soldier who has run back to his own country, rescued by his own troops and potentially guilty of shooting three North Korean soldiers, leaving two dead. He claims that he was kidnapped.

One of the dead, Jeong Woo-jin (Shin Ha-kyun, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) was shot eight times, which doesn’t seem like self-defense. And one of the other South Korean troops, Jeong Woo-jin (Shin Ha-kyun), suddenly tries to commit suicide.

The truth is that for some time, the men had all been friends. In fact, the surviving soldiers and Woo-jin were attempting to protect one another, something that had been happening since Kyeong-pil and Woo-jin saved Soo-hyeok from one of their land mines.

Yet can even the truth — once discovered — save anyone? This is a tense exploration of the divide that exists between people who are not all that different.

This is a tense watch and one that will anger you by the close. I have no idea how to save the world. All I know is to watch movies.

The Arrow Video release of this film is available from MVD.

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