Some of the Swiss-German characters are somewhat stereotypical, but the main actors in Joint Security Area manage to evoke by turns humor, tragedy, brutality, neurosis and warmth of heart, all of which is held together by Chan-wook's atmospheric and moody color palette as well as Chan-wook's ability to hold back just enough as the narrative unfolds to make the finale satisfying.
Great message marred by poor delivery. This would be a classic... IF there had been no English dialogue from the non-Korean characters. The result is actually worse than bad dubbing. Lee Yeong-Ae does well enough in her role, but too many of her scenes are in the aforementioned horrible English. The multiple viewpoints/flashbacks lend the whole thing a tragic aspect, with the last few scenes hitting especially hard.
There are still films that can surprise you without forcing themselves to be filled with twists, and Park Chan-wok's breakthrough film is a prime example of that. The tone shifts revealed through the non-linear narrative are excellent, and the middle becomes just comfortable enough so that you forget where the film has to go to finish.
A brilliant satire handling one of the most contentious political situations in modern times. The film takes a discerning look at each part of the story with care and the same critical eye. It hits all of the notes that I crave in a satirical piece and follows through the promises. Each character is nuanced and adding something to the narrative or world being constructed. Another great from Park Chan-wook.
Very uneven film. A rocky start with some horrible acting and terrible English finally gives way to an intriguing and heartfelt story about brotherhood and blood being thicker than politics. About the 90 minute mark it starts to head off the rails again but the finish is spectacular and more than makes up for that.
This early Park Chan-wook film soars when it shows the four soldiers throwing off political differences and engaging to comradeship or brotherhood (depending where you're from). At that moment, you feel the restraints removed from this long civil war, and it makes the events later on feel more tragic. But the scenes with the security forces land like a thud with bad dialogue and scene-chewing melodrama.
Joint Security Area is a mixed bag for me. I absolutely loved the story told in the flashbacks about Lee, Oh and the other two soldiers becoming friends. But then the scenes in the present with the murder investigation were just so less interesting and in my opinion really dragged the film down. The best part of this movie for me is Kang-ho Song, he steals every scene he is in.
When saw this with Memories of Murder I would have sworn Bong Joon-ho did JSA, while Park Chan-wook did MoM. Stylistically, each felt like the other's work, and theme and content. While the camerawork was clean here, it didn't stand out as MoM's but the story gripped me along with great performances from the pals (not the police tho). I want to rate this higher, but endearment is not sufficient enough reason.