Memories of Murder (aka Salin ui Chu-eok) review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
Memories of Murder by director Joon-ho Bong is the quintessential crime drama thriller and that’s non-debatable. This film is crafted to such perfection that if someone ever decides to remake it, that would be a crime against humanity of the highest order. Simply stated: Memories of Murder has it all: intrigue, stellar plot, carefully-crafted characters – each with their own agendas, motivations, pluses and flaws (including hubris). But, perhaps the most important aspect of this film is the ensemble casting (as described by Tony Zhou in one of his video essays); it’s just, they don’t make films as they used to: nowadays it’s only close-up, then switch shot, then another close-up after which the actors themselves are put in a tougher spot than if they’d just acted like they were part of an ensemble. But I digress.
The film begins by showing the audience a gruesome murder (implicitly) which has taken place in some of South Korea’s most remote rural areas in the fall of 1986. The detective assigned to this case is Park Du-Man (played by Song Kang-Ho) and it becomes immediately clear that the whole police force is way out of their comfort zone in regards to these crimes. This is also emphasized through the chaotic crime scene as reporters trample potential evidence and make it even harder for the police to do their jobs. This is South Korea’s first recorded serial killer in history, so it’s quite clear that the nation wasn’t ready for this kind of upheaval – at least not at that exact time.
Putting that aside, and we see how inspector Park is a far-cry from a meticulous police investigator, who seems to abandon the scientific method in favor of a more scattered approach and by using the brute force of his assistant Cho Yong-koo (Roe-ha Kim). After all, it got them this far, right?
The arrival of Seo Tae-Yun (played by Kim Sang-Kyung) however, a methodical and rational investigator from Seoul, hints at a more measured approach from the force at-hand. At first, this seems like it’s the case, but as things slowly unravel to no avail and the culprit is nowhere to be seen, it seems as if Seo’s arrival only served the purpose to stir things up from within the police force, and not solve the crime that took the whole nation by storm. But Seo doesn’t have any ulterior motivations, and so why was he summoned in the first place?
Ultimately, if you want to see the best crime-thriller from your lifetime, this may be your best chance. Memories of Murder is just brilliant and I’m saying that with 100% devotion and honesty.