Memories of Murder ★★★★½

Based on a true incident that occurred in a South Korean town from 1986 to 1991 during which 10 women were found gagged, raped & murdered by a serial killer, Memories of Murder is an extremely well-crafted, ingeniously narrated & intelligently paced mystery thriller about this very case file which not only qualifies as a defining example of its genre but is great enough to rank amongst the greatest films to come out from the South Korean film industry.

The story of Memories of Murder begins in 1986 with the discovery of the first victim's dead body & concerns the investigation carried out by two detectives with very different working methods. The local one always ends up torturing innocent suspects into confession while the other one's research goes much deeper. Most of the story covers these two contrasting characters clashing with each other while trying to work together towards the same objective.

Directed by Bong Joon-ho, who is notable for fusing elements of various genres into one tightly structured & greatly detailed story which is then often pierced with dark humour, Memories of Murder is his sophomore effort & of all the films he's made to date, this one is certainly the most balanced. The screenplay puts great emphasis on its two lead characters & their frequently conflicting opinions, and captures the real-life incident wonderfully as well.

Cinematography exhibits an arresting visual beauty which contrasts with the very gruesome subject the film deals with. Editing cleverly lines up the different segments in a single file, resulting in a smooth, self-explanatory narration. And the background score has its moments as well. Further elevating the picture are quality performances from its talented cast & although it ranges from composed to crazy, everyone chips in nicely in their given roles, especially Song Kang-ho, his right hand man & Kim Sang-kyung.

On an overall scale, Memories of Murder is an expertly handled cinema that puts on screen the most infamous case in the modern history of South Korea with admirable honesty & manages to creep its viewers out more than once but despite its bleak tone, it never turns into a gloomy experience & is an emotional roller-coaster ride for there are moments of unmistakable hilarity which comes from the idiosyncratic characters who are present here in abundance. Inarguably one of Asian cinema’s finest, Bong Joon-ho’s magnum opus comes strongly recommended.

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