Last Witness (2001)

Directed by
Not a bad movie, not really a good one
Reviewed by Simon on 2012-05-25

The body of a junky turns up with a knife through its chest.  A bad ass cop whose name I've already forgotten takes on the case.  Following the trail of evidence, he comes to learn of a story that happened 50 years earlier, in the aftermath of the Korean war.

The movie opens with a little text introduction telling us how many North Korean prisoners of war were left in prison on some South Korean island after the war, and some stayed there for 50 years.  The director wanted to dedicate it to those who "lost half a life" thanks to the war/partition.

Sounds like it should be clever and interesting?  Sadly it's not, particularly.  We get bits of standard murder mystery cop type movie, interjected with extended flashbacks to a more interesting but under-developed story of human suffering in a haphazard way.  The movie doesn't quite seem to know what it wants to be, and has very inconsistent tones throughout.  It's developed in a fairly muddled way.  It's not really bad, just not especially good.

The one thing the movie does have going for it is some really nice cinematography though.  There's some absolutely delicious images throughout the movie (captured well in another excellent Korean DVD presentation). 
There's also a fair amount of attention been paid to recreating the scenes set in the early 1950's - the prison of war camp especially must have taken quite a lot of effort to recreate, even with bits of digital assistance.  Actually, I think the movie would have been a lot better if it had just concentrated on this part of the story.  The idea of uncovering the past through an investigation in the present is an interesting one, but I don't think it made for a better movie.  Plus, if it had all been set in the past we would have been spared the really bad make-up that attempts to convince us that several members of the cast have aged 50 years between shots.

Not a bad movie, not really a good one, though definitely a pretty one.