2009: Lost Memories

Director:  Lee Si-myung
Year: 2002
Rating: 6.5

Country: Korea

I really enjoyed this film for about the first two-thirds and then it decided to hit the stupid button for the remainder of the film. Till then it had a very intriguing premise, good action scenes, a mystery cocooned within a buddy sci-fi time travel thriller - and then it decided to go full Hollywood. Cliché follows cliché like ducks at a shooting gallery. I sort of winced with each one because it could have gotten to where it wanted to go without them. Still overall its a big-budget thriller with loads of action, some moments of real emotion and the type of alternative history plot that I really like. Every choice you make has ramifications that you can't foresee - people you save on this side but people who die or don't even exist on the other side. I can't imagine this was very popular in Japan, but the kind of Korean nationalistic film that  can rack up at the box-office at home. Odd though that this was a co-production between those two countries and much of it is in Japanese.

In this alternative history, the USA and Japan became allies in the 1930's, invaded Manchuria together, nuked Berlin and now Japan rules over Korea. There is a small armed Korean rebellion (KRA) but the security group, JBI, is constantly going after them, whittling them down. Most of the JBI are Japanese but one highly touted agent, Sakamoto (Jang Dong-gun) is Korean and partnered up with his Japanese friend Saigo (Tôru Nakamura). The KRA takes over a fancy soiree at an exhibition of Korean artifacts and they are all killed by the JBI. Sakamoto can't figure out what the purpose was - they demanded nothing, killed no hostages - but were willing to die. Why? He digs deeper and discovers there have been similar attacks and it all points to a huge Japanese corporation. The deeper he digs the more mysterious it gets but it draws attention to him and as the Korean in the group he is expendable and friendship only goes so far.

All this is very good but once he sort of gets close to an answer the film falls apart - big jumps that make no sense - how did he get from JBI Hq. with a gun shot wound to the bar with everyone looking for him? How did he get on the ship? Why was the answer to his quest out in public instead of buried 50 stories down in a vault? How does another guy with a gut shot get to the assassination scene at the same time he does? The director is just assuming that by this time we don't care about logic or huge plot holes. The final shot of the photo in the film is a total head scratcher. But if you are willing to turn off your brain for about 30 minutes, this is pretty good.