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Toe The Line
Edward Lee | 06/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One incredible tightly-woven story drives this political thriller of friends and enemies along the Joint Security Area (JSA) between North and South Korea.An apparent exchange of hostilities leaves two soldiers of the North Korean Army dead. Another is wounded, and a fourth soldier -- a South Korean soldier -- appears to be the hero ... but is he? As both sides refuse to allow an investigation to prove anything conclusive, a Neutral Nations officer -- a woman -- is brought in to uncover the truth ... but will she?Being perfectly honest, I purchased JSA solely on the basis of the recommendation of AZNFilms.com, and I have to say that I wasn't disappointed in the least. Comparisons to SHIRI are very off-base in that -- politics aside -- SHIRI is a great formula action film from start to finish ... but JSA is a pure political thriller. It is a 'thinking man's action film' where the action is a result of the plot and not because of the character's motivations (with one notable exception I won't give away to spoil the surprise). However, this film's script keeps you guessing and even delivers tremendous surprise up until the very last frame!Again, JSA is not intended for fans of the John Woo mentality (and I'm a huge fan of Woo's work). This is a drama -- which deservedly won many at the Korean Film Awards -- but certainly stands up to most American films easily. In fact, I would have to say that I never saw what all of the excitement was about MYSTIC RIVER -- a rather conventional crime drama -- but there's plenty to get excited about in JSA.I'll be watching this one again this weekend."
Perfect representation of Korean tragedy
Will | Seoul, Korea | 10/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Those who study, or have lived in, Korea will appreciate the dynamism and importance of this impeccably made film. Outside of a passing awareness most Americans have no idea what the split nations of south and north Korea mean. This film captures, in a slowly building awareness, the true tragedy and heart break that is the modern Korean nation: one racially, ethnically and culturally monolithic people harshly divided in two with one the last vestige of a dead socioeconomic theory (communism) and the other a raging Asian Tiger and the world's 11th largest economy. While the north has clearly lost this last stand off of the Cold War, the nations remain divided and JSA does a superb job of bringing this into the human dimension. Note the subtle jabs at the US as well as the neutral nations. This gives Americans a view into a world most do not understand, but one that could consume our military in a flash. Not to be missed."
BREATH TAKING AND HEART BREAKING
paula quincey | ANJEONG-RI, SOUTH KOREA | 04/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Living in South Korea gives you a chance to get some idea of the heart breaking reality of this divided country. As Americans we have no concept of how it must feel to be in this situation. To see this film is to get a "taste" of the reality. To feel the horrible pain and taste the tears -- friends gained only to be lost to bloodshed!! I cannot even imagine what it must be like to see this film as a Korean. I have many Korean friends here in this beautiful country I now call my home(for the next few years). After seeing this, I feel differently than I did before seeing it. I feel like I have grown as a human after the experience watching JSA has given me. I think everyone living in Korea certainly should see this film. It wouldnt hurt all Americans to see it to understand how a country divided hurts the soul. Excellent film."
A love letter from the South to the North
Tintin | Boston, USA | 07/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the movie that lent me a first peek into the collective consciousness of the South Korean people. It is a love letter from the South to the North. Given the fact it set box office record when it opened in Korea, I conclude most Koreans subscribe to the movie's sentiments, and that makes them a loving, tolerant and sensible people in my mind.
If one's to draw analogy between this and other movies, "Dr. Strangelove" and "The Americanization of Emily" come to mind. All three carried similar messages: War is absurd; in a paranoid and hostile world, reason, intellect and humanity are no match for some lunatics or brain-washed zealots. (BTW, I think Americanization of Emily should've ended with the Omaha Beach landing scene.) All three are extremely apt in driving their powerful messages home. Of the three, JSA is the most aesthetically pleasing and emotionally intimate. It portrays the preciousness of life and friendship so beautifully, and death and destruction so relentlessly, that the audiences have no choice but to be affected.
It is not perfect. The English language scenes are weak as some earlier reviews indicated, but they are brief and don't affect the flow and mood of the film.
Definitely not to be missed and destined to be a classic."
"JSA" stands for "Just Simply Awesome!" (Believe the Hype!)
Ace-of-Stars | Honolulu, Hawaii | 06/15/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"* Spotlighted as one of the most expensive & highest grossing domestic Korean films to date (ranking third in overall audience attendance in Korea for a domestic film, just behind "Chingu" ["Friend"] and "Shiri" [or "Swiri"], and just ahead of the quirky romantic comedy "Yeopgijeogin Geunyeo" [aka "My Sassy Girl"], "JOINT SECURITY AREA" -- (Korean title: "Gongdong Kyeongbi Kuyeok - JSA") -- is one of those stories which starts off confusingly, but by the end ties everything together neatly and beautifully with some of the most sincere and genuine raw emotion ever experienced in a feature film.
"JSA" begins with a couple of contradictory flashbacks of an assassination-type event which takes place in a guardshack North of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) in the Joint Security Area, each based on the 'official version' of the story as propogated by North and South. As the film progresses, we are pulled along by a third and equally contradictory flashback, this one apparently revealing the truth not only of that fateful night's event which nearly ignited a small war between the two Koreas, but also giving us insight as to what led up to that point, and does so very tenderly and emotionally.
The story revolves around an 'illegal' friendship forged between two pairs of soldiers stationed on opposite sides of the DMZ in the Joint Security Area, which began as a result of a nighttime border patrol team in the South getting disoriented and venturing too far north, accidently venturing into Kim Jung-Il's Communist state where one of the soldiers gets separated from the rest of the group and becomes stranded under frightening and dire circumstances in what is one of the most tense and dramatic moments of the film.
A secret correspondence is later initiated by the prodigal Southern soldier with the two Northern soldiers he encountered on that harrowing night. Before long, he receives an invitation to 'cross over the bridge which divides the two Koreas'-- literally and figuratively --and almost without hesitation accepts the offer to drop in for an "unauthorized (to say the least) visit."
No 'sensative secrets' are ever revealed or exchanged during these illegal meetings (as one of the Southern soldiers declares, "We don't know anything, anyway"); What 'secrets' ARE exchanged, though, are those which come from the heart: stories of friends, family, homelife, personal goals, and hopes for a reunified nation of "brothers" fractured by ideological differences. It was also a nice touch that never at any time-- except in a moment of genuine curiousity or as a gesture of offered protection --does anyone of either side try to entice any of the others to defect to the other side.
But as with all beautifully and honestly executed thought-provoking cinematic masterpieces, something goes terribly wrong during one of the illegal visits, which results in "murder" (quote/unquote), cover-up, and threatened outbreak of war. It is left to a neutral investgative board to uncover the truth of what took place on that dark rainy night, and the case is assigned to a Korean native raised in Switzerland who carries with her a secret of her own which could raise questions about her 'objectivity' and very likely jeopardize her investigation even as the truth gradually unfolds .
Why this film never saw nationwide theatrical release in the U.S., apart from a few sporadic "film festival" venues, is completely beyond my comprehension. Perhaps seeing how well made this movie was, and how it held its own in its homeland by practically putting "Titanic's" Korean box office recepts to shame, maybe Hollywood got scared that its ego would get bruised even further if American audiences (already apathetic and dissatisfied with the declining quality of Hollywood films and their self-eroding committment to excellence) had wide access to this "foreign" film and responded favorably, as they surely would have.
Unlike many foreign films, which sometimes require a considerable amount of knowledge of the native culture to be genuinely appreciated and/or enjoyable, "Joint Security Area" is truly an "international" film, one to which anyone anywhere can easily relate. If allowed, this one movie could probably do a much more effective job of moving Korean reunification talks forward than all of the bureaucratic 'diplomacy' of the past decade.