Memories of Murder

Memories of Murder ★★★★½

Review In A Nutshell:

Even though I was left underwhelmed by Chan-wook Park's Oldboy, I still had hope for Korean cinema, knowing that maybe if I keep exploring and tasting new films by different directors; I would eventually find one that would suit to my tastes. It was fortunate that it only took two films to find that sense of satisfaction; it was by the mind and hands of Joon-ho Bong, his sophomore feature film Memories of Murder.

Memories of Murder features a strong and appealing premise of a rape-murder mystery set in a local town; two detectives with their own distinctive styles have been chosen to solve the case. It is in the difference of each detective's style that the film manages to be interesting; with comedic touches set by the director in order to let the first hour or so of the film to not be too suffocating with its serious and dire subject. It was through this that the characters were unique, allowing both to stand out from one another and create a sense of clash of ethics and methods, but the film does not resort to the clichéd elevation of internal tension, letting both characters be focused and determined to identify and catch the person responsible for these sickening crimes.

The mystery of the plot itself starts off being a bit slow in exposition, it takes a while for the audience to find something to chew on; it is only when facts start to emerge and solidify their importance to the story, that the film starts to pick up its pace, and create tension; evoking a sense of urgency that is felt both on screen and in ourselves. It is during the final hour of the film that I found myself highly engaged by its mystery and suspense, with comedic elements finally carrying a sense of weight for the characters; showing a sense of desperation, meaning that the case has finally crawled within the inner depths of their souls, becoming an obsession rather than an obligation. It is during this part of the film that the dialogue driven exposition begins to slow itself down, halted by tense chase sequences and big reveals that leaves audiences in a state of exhilaration.

It all builds, brick by brick, to a conclusion that satisfies in a way that one wouldn't expect. It becomes internal rather than external; emphasising the detectives themselves rather than bigger story; it is character development that has slowly been building under our noses, paying off at the end that makes one want to go back and see their entire journey again. The film ends with a final frame that speaks volumes of its ideas and themes; I feel it would be unfair to those who have yet seen the film to divulge these thematic elements, as its exposure may hurt the impact the film would have to surprise and intellectually stimulate. Also it would be better for me to discuss it when I have seen the film multiple times, understanding all the elements that make up the film.

Memories of Murder is a damn near perfect mystery thriller that keeps audiences on their toes and delivering a conclusion that beautifully exceeds one's expectations. This is a film that does not aim to satisfy the immediate desires of its audience, it targets the nerves in our body that find excitement in deep and resonating intellectual and emotional stimulation.

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