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Joint Security Area DVD Review (Region 2)

Discussion in 'Movie Forum' started by Seth Gecko, Jul 14, 2005.

  1. Seth Gecko

    Seth Gecko
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    <P STYLE='text-align: center'><FONT STYLE='font-size: 18px'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/JSA/JSAR2.jpg' ALT='JOINT SECURITY AREA DVD cover artwork' ALIGN='RIGHT'>JOINT SECURITY AREA</FONT><br>Reviewed July 2005 by <A HREF='search.php?do=process&query=Russell Rafferty&showposts=1&forumchoice[]=107&forumchoice[]=197' target='_top'>Russell Rafferty</A>.</P><P><B>The Movie : 5</B></P><P>Some people love war movies to be as real as possible, holding Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan as the epitome of historic recreation. Personally, I am not so sure if this is the case. Ryan has always seemed to me, to be a rather contrived work that used the war’s undoubted emotional backdrop to lend credence to a piece of entertainment. Of course, the impact is far greater if you do recreate war scenarios on the big screen but, in doing so, sometimes lessens those depicted events to cinematic frippery. So there is the rub: Do you rely on the reality of war to embellish your vision, or do you approach things from another angle? </p><P>The latter would appear to be the choice for director Chan-wook Park (Oddboy), with his movie Joint Security Area (JSA). Set in the near future on the North/South Korean border, a shooting sparks a fierce crossfire and draws the two nations to the brink of war. With two North Korean soldiers dead, and one South Korean injured, it is left to inexperienced Maj Sophie (Yeong-ae Lee) to find out the truth of what happened and placate the opposing factions. </p><P>JSA looks at the relationships and differences of the “opposing” cultures and asks questions of the purpose of war. After a deliberately disorientating introduction, we are rapidly introduced to all the players in this movie. Now this is a shame as the good actors – the four Korean soldiers – contrast harshly against the poor ones – the Swiss and Swedish enforcement officers. Actually, poor really doesn’t do them justice. Hideously, chronically bromidic may be a better description. Just as well then that the efforts to discover what happened, the bits where the Swiss/Swedish tag team generally “act”, is something of a McGuffin. Equally just as well, the actual interactions of the soldiers are fabulously engrossing. </p><P>I suppose that the scene that sticks in my mind, when breaking down the friendships between the North/South Korean soldiers, is the landmine scene. It is certainly a key turning point and is handled with emotion and panache, without becoming unduly false. Indeed the scene plays like a microcosm of JSA as a whole: ironically bridging the uneasy standoff between the two cultures by using a tool of the armed forces through which governments perpetrate the standoff in the first place. Such symbolism is used liberally throughout JSA from the outright funny to lines that cut like a razor to the truth of Korean honour. A simple scene where Sgt. Oh Kyeong-pil (Kang-ho Song) eats an American “choco-pie” from the south is particularly poignant. Sgt. Lee Soo-hyeok (Byung-hun Lee) says “Why don’t you come over to the south, you can have all you could want?” of his North Korean choco-pie lover. A deathly silence falls as Sgt. Oh spits out the half eaten morsel into his hand and replies “My dream is for the Korean people to unite and make the best damn choco-pies in the whole world!” before stuffing his snack back into his mouth. The point is made and everyone understands the complex relationships in the room with a minimum of fuss. </p><P>Chan-wook Park, whether by intent or not, appears to be a very western orientated director; The pacing, structure and acting in JSA all seem to be at odds with some of the other Asian output that I have seen, being a slower less exaggerated movie than some others. There are scenes of such pure barren symmetry I can just imaging Kubrick nodding in approval from his heavenly respite. However, there is enough sensibility impartiality in Park’s diction that makes you believe in the Korean situation. For example, I can imagine nine out of ten American directors using the aforementioned choco-pie scene as a sickening, cloyingly nationalistic speech ala Independence Day. Not so with Park, who tempers opposing styles in JSA very well. Indeed the final scene is a very powerful one indeed, and is worthy if accolade in and of itself. </p><P>JSA is far from perfect. The whodunit sections of the story seem to be wholly unnecessary after a certain point, irritating on a number of levels. Firstly Yeong-ae Lee’s English accent is either learnt from someone in deepest South Africa or is badly dubbed in ADR. Additionally, you really have to hear the woeful acting of Herbert Ulrich (Capt Pearson) he escorts Maj Sophie across the neutral bridge. I would also say that some of the scenes are a little out of focus and need more clarity, while others are simply too long. I would also question some of the actions towards the end to be less than realistic considering what has gone before in the soldier’s lives. </p><P>If and this is a big IF, you can ignore the schism between competing story threads, there is much to commend here. If not then you will most certainly think this a sorely missed opportunity. </p><P><B>Picture : 4</B></P><P>At first I thought the picture was okay, before I realised my new DVD player mucks around with picture settings on the fly to give you the closest picture to a reference set of parameters. After turning this off, I realised two things. One, the DVD player was doing a fantastic job. That leaves the other thing to be JSA’s picture is actually very poor indeed in places. In fact, it looks like JSA was mastered from VHS in some parts. A furry, overly bright, blurred picture in some outdoor scenes, especially when some tourists are taken through the barracks of XXX just shouldn’t happen in this, the summer of DVD technology. There is some ghosting of detail, especially in the cornfields which, admittedly, are a very tough DVD task. Even so, there should be less overtly intrusive artifacting. Still some of the darker scenes are well contrasted, if lacking in ultimate detail. Yet at other times the picture is perfectly good and very watchable. </p><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/JSA/JSAR2_1.jpg' ALT='JOINT SECURITY AREA'></P><P><B>Sound : 5</B></P><P>Fairly mundane. There is a DTS track, here which is okay as is the DD one. It seems to be a copout to say that there wasn’t much to like or dislike in the sound stakes, but that is exactly the case, here. I could say that there was a certain amount of hiss, but not too much to intrude. There was some reasonable use of rears during a rainy scene at the beginning and some reasonable bass effects in a cornfield burning sequence. Otherwise, it’s just okay, average, nothing to write home about. </p><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/JSA/JSAR2_2.jpg' ALT='JOINT SECURITY AREA'></P><P><B>Extras : 7</B></P><P>The making of feature is split into several options: The ISA Story, Behind the Scenes and Making the Movie. All of them are very exhaustive, and just as good as the best of the breed. The initial part is done as an actor/director talk and seems to be natural in a funnelled kind of way. Even so the relevant information is gathered and some surprises along the way. For example, the cornfield scene was done in CGI which I would never have guessed unless the documentary hadn’t told me so. Also some of the disorientation mentioned above is actually intentional. Whether the soldiers are crossing north or south of that bridge which spans the neutral zone is supposed to be vague. The amount of detail and effort that has gone into these three extras is pretty laudable and makes for a very engrossing documentary. This is especially true when the issue of the North/South divide is raised, primarily because you get an insight into the movie makers’ preconceptions. Certainly I got the impression that this vision, while changed, never lost its focus within the final product</p><P>Letter from a Private is a little too poetic for my liking being a musical interlude set against some scenes from JSA. If this is your thing, the nso be it, but to me it was a little too self reverent. </p><P>Profile clips are the only time outside of Shaun of the Dead where the Biographies have been watchable. Facts about the character are played against some outtakes from JSA. This is a very palatable way of digesting what is a very dry extra indeed. </p><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/JSA/JSAR2_3.jpg' ALT='JOINT SECURITY AREA'></P><P><B>Trivia</B><br><P>For user information we use Bitrate 1.4 to scan the disk for the video bitrate, which also calculates the average bitrate. Below is a graph illustrating the bitrate of the disk, including the average bitrate reading. This disk averaged at 8.72 Mbps.</p></P><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='http://www.wvip.co.uk/images/dvd/JSA/JSAR2_BR.jpg' ALT='JOINT SECURITY AREA'></P><P><B>Verdict : 5</B></P><P>Not perfection, but enjoyable nonetheless. This is a movie that is crippled by one half of the storyline but shines because of the other. If you are the kind of person that can clear their minds of the worst parts of a movie and concentrate on the good (like Keanu Reaves’ accent in Dracula) then you will think JSA a triumph. To me, and probably most others, JSA is a movie that misses the mark on too many occasions to forgive. </p><TABLE border='0' CELLPADDING='0' CELLSPACING='2' WIDTH='100%'><TR><TD COLSPAN='2'><B>JOINT SECURITY AREA (2000)</B></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Genres</TD><TD><A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=exact&searchfield=genre&search_for=DRAMA' target='_blank'>DRAMA</A>, <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=exact&searchfield=genre&search_for=MYSTERY' target='_blank'>MYSTERY</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Director</TD><TD><A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=director&search_for=CHAN-WOOK PARK' target='_blank'>CHAN-WOOK PARK</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Stars</TD><TD><A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=YEONG-AE LEE' target='_blank'>YEONG-AE LEE</A>, <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=BYUNG-HUN LEE' target='_blank'>BYUNG-HUN LEE</A>, <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=KANG-HO SONG' target='_blank'>KANG-HO SONG</A>, <A HREF='http://www.totaldvd.net/cgi-bin/dvdreviews.php?include=all&searchfield=stars&search_for=TAE-WOO KIM' target='_blank'>TAE-WOO KIM</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65'><B>Region</B></TD><TD><B>2</B> <FONT>(UK)</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Supplier</TD><TD><FONT>Tartan Video. Released Monday 30th May 2005</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>SRP</TD><TD><FONT>19.99</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Discs</TD><TD><FONT>2</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Format</TD><TD><FONT>DVD9/5</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Time</TD><TD><FONT>108 mins.</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Chapters</TD><TD><FONT>16</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Picture</TD><TD>Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1&nbsp;</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Sound</TD><TD>Korean <IMG SRC='http://www.totaldvd.net/images/dts.gif' ALIGN='ABSMIDDLE' border='0' ALT='DTS Soundtrack'> 5.1<BR>Korean Dolby Digital 5.1</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Subtitles</TD><TD>English, Korean</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Case</TD><TD>Amaray</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Extras</TD><TD>The ISA Story<BR>Behind the Scenes<BR>Making the Movie<BR>Letter from a Private<BR>Profie Clips</TD></TR></TABLE><P STYLE='text-align: center'>If you would like to comment on this review, please reply below.</P>
     

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