I'm a big fan of South Korean director Chan-wook Park. He directed the "Vengeance Trilogy" and a few other movies I really enjoyed. "Joint Security Area" is one of his earlier works, and it was interesting to see him at an earlier point in his career, before he had really honed his craft.

"JSA" focuses on the border between North and South Korea. There is a small strip of land designated as a joint-security-area, to be patrolled by soldiers from both countries. A chance meeting in a field creates a friendship between soldiers from each side. They begin to spend time together, and develop a bond that transcends nations and politics.

The meat of the story focuses on an incident that leaves a soldier dead. A Swiss soldier is brought in to figure out exactly what happened. The beginning of the movie follows the Swiss hearing the stories of each of those involved, with each giving slightly different versions. It seems like a bit of an homage to the classic Rashômon. The true story is revealed in a flashback that makes up the whole second act.

The beginning of the film is pretty weak, to the point where I nearly gave up and turned it off. I never do that, and in this case was rewarded with what turned into something great. The first half hour or so was just poorly acted and poorly written, but once that got out of the way, I was treated to an engrossing story.



On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, "Joint Security Area" gets a 7 out of 10.

[Each week, Varacchi explores cinema from his own perspective. From indie to foreign to mainstream, he'll watch it all. Suggestions and recommendations are welcome, leave a comment below. CLICK HERE for the Celluloid Hero archives]