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Review - JSA: Joint Security Area

Watched JSA: Joint Security Area on Kanopy, a streaming service that comes free with every New York Public Library card. What begins as a military murder mystery on the border between North and South Korea—in which unraveling the particulars of the “why” and “how” is more important than discovering the “who” (think A Few Good Men meets Rashomon)—quickly gives way to a much more morally complex tale about a forbidden friendship that tests loyalties and transcends political ideologies. War, the film argues, is rarely as black and white as history portrays; soldiers, after all, are people too, and human decency can exist on both sides of a conflict. Director Park Chan-wook is best known for such dark, cynical works as Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Oldboy, so it’s refreshing to see him tackle material that’s comparatively optimistic (even taking the heartbreakingly bitter ending into account).

[Originally written March 8, 2018.]

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