Burning

Burning ★★★★½

Random gripe before we get started: whenever Hae-mi calls Ben “oppa”, Netflix’s subtitles say she’s calling him “Ben”, but “oppa” has a distinct Korean meaning as a phrase women use to refer to older brothers or older men they consider to be close as brothers. A small distinction, perhaps, but one nevertheless. To the review!

A careful, deliberately paced and magnificently shot thriller that slowly draws you into its story and then drops the bottom out like a really good rollercoaster would. Has some interesting things to say about disaffected Korean youth and class divide, but mainly works as a tense puzzle box, and is probably the better for it. I feel like casting Steven Yeun, a Korean who’d spent most of his life in America and thus would likely be viewed at least *somewhat* askance by a Korean audience, was a deliberate choice, and he delivers a truly staggeringly unnerving and quality performance*. Really makes good use of the wide open farmland and desolate spaces of the parts of South Korea within propagandizing distance of the DMZ, a stark contrast to the smallish-city charm of Paju or Ben’s nouveau-riche fuck-you money apartment. The story moves maybe a bit slower than I’d like, since I don’t know that the story can support the running length, but otherwise this is a real corker with one hell of an ending. In my headcanon, Yeun’s I Think You Should Leave character divorces his wife, changes his name, re-embraces his heritage, and then ends up in Nairobi somehow...

*random actorly shit that maybe shouldn’t impress me but does anyway - Yeun, who speaks English with zero accent, pronounces English words while speaking Korean exactly as a native Korean speaker would

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