Salinui chueok [Memories of Murder] (2003)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Salinui chueok</strong> [<strong class="MovieTitle">Memories of Murder</strong>] (2003)

(Google Play Streaming, November 2018) If you’re watching a police procedural, there’s a presumption that the criminal will be caught at the end of the movie. Filmmakers can mess with that convention, as they can end a romantic movie with the leads not getting together, but those who do this usually want to make a point and deliberately expose themselves to grumblings from the audience. Memories of Murder is a South Korean crime thriller film intentionally designed to leave audiences unsettled—the 131 minutes-long film is a careful recreation of a 1980s police investigation, but even the investigative breakthroughs don’t lead to a satisfactory conclusion, with an ending that keeps the murders unresolved. It’s adapted from real events, so there’s some veracity here—but it doesn’t make it any less enraging as a movie. [October 2019: In a rare case of reality being more satisfactory than fiction, it turns out that forensic evidence decades after the murders has led to the identification, and later confession of the serial murderer who inspired the film.] Ending aside, writer/director Bong Joon-ho does manage to turn in a competent police procedural—the details are well chosen, there is some character development, various police methods are shown, the sense of time and place is convincing and the film does manage to attain its objectives, even if those objectives aren’t necessarily the satisfaction of the audience. Memories of Murder is one more piece of evidence regarding the vitality of South Korean cinema in the twenty-first century, and a memorable crime thriller in its own right.

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