Saturday, December 01, 2007

MOVIE REVIEW - Yesterday

Yun-su Jeon, director
121 minutes

Yesterday opens with the kidnapping a of child who we quickly learn is Special Investigations unit leader Seok's son. The SI team quickly locates the kidnapper and in the ensuing attempt to free Seok's son, the boy is killed and the kidnapper escapes, leaving a unique pendant at the scene. Some days later in the megalopolis the soon to retire police chief is kidnapped after watching his daughter Hui-su give a presentation about genetic predispositions to crime. As Seok and his SI team investigate this kidnapping, they find another of the pendants, thus linking the two crimes and setting Seok and Hui-su off on a chase through the city and across the peninsula in a search for answers, which ultimately show them they have a closer link than they thought.

It took me a couple of tries to get into this movie as the synopsis I read spoiled the big plot point reveal which occurs about two-thirds of the way through the movie. I found myself confused by the initial structure of the film as I expected the knowledge I had to be imparted to the viewers very early on. Once I figured out that I was not supposed to know what was going on I was able to settle in and enjoy the movie for what it was, essentially a two-hour chase scene with moments of characterization thrown in for good measure.

I very much enjoyed this movie once I was able to settle down and actually watch it from beginning to end. It contained the kinetic action sequences coupled with the peculiar brand of understated and yet soap opera-esque acting from the leads I have come to expect from Korean cinema. I do not mean to denigrate the acting skills or performance of either Seung-woo Kim, who played Seok, or Yunjin Kim, who played Hui-su and may be more familiar to readers as Sun Kwon from "Lost," when I describe the style as soap opera-esque. It is a dichotomy that I find interesting that for as reserved as Korean culture can be, and this thought applies to Japanese and Chinese culture and cinema as well, the cinema seems to toy with extremes; when someone is happy they are VERY happy and when someone is sad they are VERY sad, there seems to be little or no middle ground. I could describe it as melodramatic however here melodramatic seems to have a certain amount of negative connotation that I do not want to convey. I think the acting in Yesterday was while not necessarily top notch certainly good.

There were two things I saw in the movie which really jumped out at me. The first was Seon-a Kim, who played the SI officer May (pictured above.) I read somewhere that this role earned her the nickname "Korean Lara Croft" however her subsequent output, which seems to consist of sex comedies, may have put that to rest. Regardless of that she is going on the list. The second thing that caught my eye is the sequence I have captured below as an animated GIF:

(I know the animated GIF is not working. You can d/l it from here and check it out yourself. I would try to capture the video to something and upload it to YouTube but I have already returned it to the rental place. Sorry!)

This takes places while the SI team is taking heavy fire in an urban environment and I just thought it was a very cool way for a team to move to cover while still providing a moving target and covering fire.

Overall I would recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys Asian cinema and knows what they are in for, however for the uninitiated it might be a bit much to swallow.

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