CinemaCl🎃wn’s review published on Letterboxd:
Based on a true incident that occurred in a South Korean town from 1986 to 1991 during which 10 women were found gagged, raped & murdered by a serial killer, Memories of Murder is an extremely well-crafted, ingeniously narrated & intelligently paced mystery thriller about this very case file which not only qualifies as a defining example of its genre but is great enough to rank amongst the greatest films to come out from the South Korean film industry.
The story begins in 1986 with the discovery of the first victim's dead body and concerns the investigation carried out by two detectives with vastly different working methods. The local one always ends up torturing innocent suspects into confession while the other one's research goes much deeper. Most of the story covers these two contrasting characters clashing with each other while trying to work together towards the same objective.
Directed by Bong Joon-ho who is notable for fusing elements of various genres into one tightly structured & greatly detailed story and then often piercing it with dark humour, the film his sophomore directorial effort and of all his works to date, it remains the most balanced. The script puts greater emphasis on its two lead characters & their frequently conflicting opinions, and portrays the real-life incidents with accuracy as well.
Cinematography exhibits an arresting visual beauty which contrasts with the gruesome subject the film deals with. Editing cleverly lines up the different segments in a single file, resulting in a smooth, self-explanatory narration. And the background score has its moments as well. Further elevating the picture are quality performances from its talented cast & although it ranges from composed to crazy, everyone chips in brilliantly in their given roles, especially Song Kang-ho, his right hand man & Kim Sang-kyung.
On an overall scale, Memories of Murder is an ingeniously handled police procedural that renders the most infamous case in the modern history of South Korea with admirable honesty and manages to creep its viewers out more than once. But despite its bleak tone, it never turns into a gloomy experience and is an emotional roller-coaster ride, for there are moments of unmistakable hilarity which comes from the idiosyncratic personalities who are present in the film in abundance. Inarguably one of Asian cinema's finest, Bong Joon-ho’s magnum opus comes very highly recommended.