India shares some volatile borders with Pakistan, Bangladesh and China. But never, our film makers made a movie on our borders, about those, the soldiers, facing off on both sides, other than some ordinary war movies. I am surprised I didnt realise this fact at all, until I saw this brilliant Korean movie, JSA. In fact, other than movies like No Man's Land, which is quite similar and different at the same time, as far as I know, there are really only a few movies on this subject, even from around the world.
When I read two lines about this movie, it felt more like Few Good Men, and could have been an adaptation, but for some reason I thought I should see this. And what an experience it has been. This is an incredible movie, much superior to Few Good Men, about soldiers from two enemy nations, once a single nation, also pointing out to the futility of war and its politics.
In the Korean border line, a shoot out occured on the North Korean post, killing 2 North Koren soldiers and injuring one. The South Korean soldier who did this runs across to his side with a bullet on his leg. The situation could turn really bad and to prevent a possible break up between the two nations, a commission of Neutral Nations orders an enquiry. A swiss officer, Sophie a law officer, arrives and investigates the case. She finds the reports from both sides completely contradictory. Slowly she manages to talk to the two soldiers, the South Korean accused and the wounded North Korean witness, and what unfolds is a brilliant story. A moving story of friendship, which was quite simple but with a violent and sad ending.
The movie starts in a bit mediocre way with the arrival of Sophie and her first attempts to talk to the soldiers. However, as the main content falls in, this movie raise itself to the level of a master piece. The different versions of the two soldiers, and the real happenings unfolds in pieces and in flashbacks and reminiscences but its brilliantly scripted and directed. The scenes towards climax is just brilliant. So are many scenes which happens on the border. Scenes in which soldiers from both sides interact without any dialogues like the patrolling in the snow etc are so wonderful. It is the growing friendship of the 4 soldiers and the after effects, which is the heart of the plot and those are all shot brilliantly, I must repeat, its incredibly brilliant.
The final ending of the movie alone deserves some awards. In the first half there is a scene, few visitors, tourists may be, walking in the border from the S.K side and one of their's cap flies off to the other side. A N. Korean soldier picks it up and hand it over to his S.K counterpart. A tourist seems to take photographs of the scene. One of these photograph is shown at the very end and the camera pans through the various faces in the frame and this is incredible. It would make us feel sad and at the very same moment say 'Wow, thats brilliant'. I would say that is the real height of brilliant imagination. If I was to chose the most brilliant and touching last shot in any movies I have watched, I would pick this. Of course, JSA is not just about this last shot, but this single shot can vouch for the brilliance of the whole movie.
It is also notable that this movie does not try to point either of the Korean sides in a negative way. May be that could be the reason why it did not win a prominent award from the west, who have a favourite in the region and the plot is against their basic propaganda.