Memories of Murder

Memories of Murder ★★★★

Spine-tingling police procedural—no doubt, if you're talking death by cadavers and strangulation, or inserting stuffed objects inside a victim's vagina.

Bong Joon-ho’s sophomore feature is his very best (yes, even eclipsing the wacko delirium of Snowpiercer) simply for being so extensive. Or eccentric. Or thrilling. Or rabid. You choose.

1986-91, Seoul. In the close-knit radius of Gyeong-gi, there have been a number of increasing murders. With the serial killer on loose, an investigation is led by old-school detective Park (Song Kang Ho) who uses his volatility to gain a confession from suspects. Meanwhile, detective Seo (Kim Sang Kyung), who has more contemporary methods, uses his gradual cleverness to get closer.

Of course, they're distinct opposites who often disagree (which leads to moments of gallows humour), but they also share an affinity of respect. And even if there's a predictable nature to how they accept each other's perspective, it's the macabre boldness which lingers after. Until its movingly ambiguous book-end in the pastured landscape. The pain of a memory.

It's the chilling details, too. From how the killer is triggered by certain rhythms—attacking on rainy nights, playing a song on the radio, etc. And the suspense itself is so vividly engaging (the on-foot chase sequence and underground tunnel showdown) which refuse to leave you at any ease.

As Bong reaches its resolution, he doesn't provide you with complete closure. To me, that is more disarmingly indelible. I get the frustration. I get the defeat. But that is precisely the point; showing the casualties in unrest, who were so haunted by this murder investigation. Will those wounds ever heal?

Nick Vass liked this review