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Arrow Video: Brother or Comrade: Joint Security Area (2000) - Reviewed

Posted By themoviesleuth 1121 days ago on Entertainment -  Photo courtesy of ArrowJoint Security Area (2000) is one of Park Chan-wook's earlier efforts and his foray into a more polished and slick style. It is based on the 1997 novel DMZ by Park Sang-yeon, and it chronicles the rising friendship and tragic downfall of four soldiers who hail from opposite sides of Korea--the communist North and capitalistic South. The DMZ or demilitarized zone, is a strip of land that runs through the Korean peninsula that separates North and South Korea. The Joint Security Area (JSA), where this film takes place, is a neutral military hub where the two sides can negotiate with each other. Over the years there have been incidents where people have been killed in the JSA because tensions run high.The film starts out with a gruesome crime scene at a guard post on the South side of the JSA. Several men have been killed and they arrest the survivors to figure out what actually went down. In order to keep the matter neutral they bring in an outside Swedish military investigation team headed up by Major Sophie Jean (Lee Young-ae) who is half Swedish and half Korean. For the first act, the film is primarily a police procedural where the narrative follows Major Jean as she tries to figure out the truth behind the murders. There are four men involved--two North Korean soldiers, Sgt. Oh Kyeong-pil (Song Kang-ho) and Jeong Woo-jin (Shin Ha-kyun) and two South Korean soldiers, Sgt. Lee Soo-hyeck (Lee Byung-hun) and Nam Sung-shik (Kim Tae-woo). After establishing the mystery, the narrative then shifts to the events leading up to the incident and how these men met. Sgt. Lee Soo-hyeck is saved from a trip mine while out on patrol by Sgt. Oh Kyeong-pil. Although they are initially hostile towards each other, this encounter ends up forging a friendship between the men. They begin meeting in secret at an outpost on the south side of the border, playing games, listening to music, and swapping life stories. They eventually transcend the decades of hate between previous generations and see each other as actual people. In a way, they forge a their own personal universe, a bubble where they can just be themselves instead of fighting over an imaginary land drawn in the sand.Joint Security Area came at the perfect time where Koreans were trying to reevaluate their relationships with each other. The screenplay was written by a man who defected from North Korea so it adds an air of authenticity to the depiction of the North Korean characters, and Park takes great pains to flesh out all the characters and not demonize one side over the other. The film was a box office hit and a copy of the film was even presented to Kim Jong-il, the Supreme Leader of North Korea at the time.This film showcases Park's eye for composition and his excellent editing abilities. The musical score is haunting and beautiful, and perfectly accompanies what is at its heart a tragic tale of friendship and betrayal. The story of the men's camaraderie is the strongest part of the film and the procedural part lacks a bit in comparison, but even with the shaky first act, the rest of movie gels together in an extremely compelling fashion. Joint Security Area gets less attention than Park's other more bombastic films, but its quiet contemplative core is one of his most emotional works.--Michelle Kisner   ARROW SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTSHigh Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentationOriginal lossless Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracksOptional English subtitlesNew audio commentary by writer and critic Simon WardIsolated music and effects trackNewly recorded video interview with Asian cinema expert Jasper SharpThe JSA Story and Making the Film, two archival featurettes on the film’s productionAbout JSA, a series of archival introductions to the film by members of the castBehind the scenes montageOpening ceremony footageTwo music videos: Letter from a Private and Take the Power BackTheatrical trailerTV spotImage galleryReversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin MurdochFIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Kieran Fisher (function() { var zergnet = document.createElement('script'); zergnet.type = 'text/javascript'; zergnet.async = true; zergnet.src = (document.location.protocol == "https:" ? "https:" : "http:") + '//'; var znscr = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; znscr.parentNode.insertBefore(zergnet, znscr); })();

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