Tuesday, February 11, 2014

THE ATTORNEY Review- Jonesy's Take

Directed by: Yang Woo-seok
Written by: Yoon Hyeon-ho and Woo-seok Yang
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Kim Young-ae, Oh Dal-su, and Im Siwan.
Synopsis: An attorney takes on a high-profile case of a young college student accused of communist actions in 1980s Korea.

The poster (shown above) for this film is strangely misleading. Based on the picture, you would assume this would almost be a family comedy, but it's far from it. While the first half of the film is more of a light-hearted character profile of the protagonist, Song Woo-seok, the story completely shifts gears midway through to an intense courtroom drama.

Song (played by Song Kang-ho) is a man with humble beginnings who never went to college, and still became a lawyer. His focus is on real estate, and he doesn't get the respect of his colleagues in the city of Busan. At first he's just out to make money, but his conscience gets turned around when the son of an old friend is accused of being a communist simply because he was part of a book club.

The story takes place in Korea in the 1980's when there was civil unrest about not having a democracy in the country. The climate the film portrayed never like it was spoon-feeding the audience, which is a tricky feat to accomplish. The director, Yang Woo-seok, does an ample job of giving the audience information, in case we're not familiar with 1980s Korean history, and letting us draw our own conclusions from the dialogue and characters.

The film is absolutely carried by Song Kang-ho's performance. American audiences will quickly become familiar with him when SNOWPIERCER is finally released. Here he brings to life this earnest yet impassioned attorney who completely changes by the end of the film. He really shines during the courtroom confrontations, and though the confrontations themselves feel a tad cliche, his intensity keeps you engrossed. Another performance that stood out was the mother of the accused, Kim Young-ae. She is a quiet presence on screen yet is able to drastically shift when her grief for her son pushes her emotions over the edge.

One fallback of the film was the courtroom section felt a little contrived. It was easy to see where the plot was going and how the proceedings would play out. There was only one semi-antagonist who's only introduced in the last third of the film. He's the torturer of the accused, and is there only to give evil government a physical representation. His character ended up feeling a little tacked on, and it would have made the confrontation between him and Song even more intense if he had been there in more of the film.

THE ATTORNEY gives light to an era of social unrest. It's an ambitious film that doesn't sugarcoat part of this country's history. Though it's not perfect, the with a couple strong performances and the subject matter, this film is quite an achievement for a first-time director.

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