|Park Chan Wook|
|Lee Young Ae||Major Sophie Jean|
|Lee Byung Heon||Sergeant Lee Soo Hyuk|
|Song Kang-Ho||Sergeant Oh Kyung Pil|
|From Poker Industries|
One of the most expensive Korean movies ever with a record breaking one million dollar set recreating the truce village at Panmunjom in 9/10 scale and one of the first Korean films shot in super 35mm, is JSA worth the expense?
An incident occurs at Panmunjom leaving two North Korean soldiers, Lieutenant Choi and Private Jung, dead, and one, Sergeant Oh, wounded. The presumed perpetrator, South Korean Sergeant Lee is also wounded. The depositions of these two survivors differ and in order to avoid escalating tensions further, the two countries agree to call in a Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) investigator to determine what happened.
The NNSC sends Major Sophie Jean, a Swiss national whose father was Korean. She reads the conflicting depositions but she can't get the men to talk to her. From careful examination of the physical evidence she determines that a fifth man was involved, South Korean Private Nam. When Private Nam learns he will have to undergo a polygraph he first tries to blow his brains out with an empty gun then jumps out of a third story window.
Private Nam does not testify to Major Jean but we flashback to the months leading up to the incident and see how Sergeant Oh saved Sergeant Lee from a mine and how Sergeant Lee throws a letter wrapped around a rock to Sergeant Oh expressing his gratitude. Communication with the North, the movie helpfully mentions, is a capital crime. A correspondence develops and eventually Sergeant Lee crosses the bridge to meet with Sergeant Oh. Private Nam and Private Jung also become entwined and we see the four become buddies as tensions flare up between their countries.
The southerners bring capitalist temptations such as a Yankee cigarette lighter, moon pies and shoe polish ( with a built in applicator!) to their friends. Also, western pornography. Sergeant Lee and the privates are just kids and engage in brotherly horseplay, tickle fights and playfully spitting on each other across the border. Sergeant Oh is somewhat older and a bit of a father figure to the others. We know it will all end in tears and when but not why. Though the officers are all rendered as virulent nationalists, the regular Ohs seem to be natural kin with the implication that it is only the wrong headedness of the leaders keeping the countries apart. Private Nam, either Kim Tae-Woo or Shin Ha-Kyun, was especially poignant. The scenes of the developing relationship seemed to go on a little long but that only made the horrible end to the friendship all the more tragic.
The DVD is not anamorphic but the picture is still beautiful, doing justice to the expensive set. The removable subtitles are excellent, easy to read and literate except, on a couple of occasions, they were out of sync with the dialog.
Dead, dead, dead (~22K)
Happier times (~21K)
The border (~28K)