Sunday, November 30, 2008

Voice of a Murderer (Korea 2007)

Based on a true story, and serving as one of the most heart-wrenching films I've seen in years, Voice of a Murderer (그놈 목소리) is a fictional account of the very real disappearance of nine-year old Lee Hyung-ho in 1991. Stories like this stay with you for a long time.

Kyung-bae Han (Kyeong-gu Seol) is a successful news anchor who is recognized and admired the nation over. He seems to be on top of the world, with his beautiful loving wife Oh Ji-sun (Kim Nam-joo), and nine-year-old son Sang-woo. The families wonderful world is suddenly torn apart when Sang-woo doesn't come home after playing outside. Immediately, Ji-sun begins to panic and wants to alert the police, but Kyung-bae keeps a level head and feels it would be better if they just waited a bit to see if he returns. A short time later, the telephone rings, and when Kyung-bae picks up the line, the person on the other end explains that Kyung-bae needs to get 100 million won together if he ever wants to see his son again. The kidnapper explains that Kyung-bae needs to get a phone installed in his car, and that when he calls, either Ji-sun at home, or Kyung-bae in the car, that he'll only let the phone ring three times. As you can imagine, if any of the demands or rules aren't met, Sang-woo will be killed. Ji-sun panics and calls the police, much to the disappointment of her husband and the kidnapper. The kidnapper is infuriated that the police are involved, and the couples chances of getting their son back begin to diminish. The phone calls, demands, and meaningless tasks continue for more than a month, and the only thing keeping Kyung-bae and Ji-sun's hope alive is a few seconds of hearing Sang-woo's voice over the phone, pleading for help. The police are completely stumped as to who the kidnapper can be, and are running out of answers to give the worried couple. As the days slowly pass, everyone begins losing hope that Sang-woo will come home.

Voice of a Murderer is a re-telling of actual events that took place in 1991, and even though director Park Jin-pyo changes some of the details, the story at it's core remains the same. If you really do the research, you'll see how this story ends, but for the sake of this review, I promise not to spoil anything for you. I always have a hard time with movies that are based on true stories, especially when the subject matter is so dark and depressing. It's hard for me to find any entertainment value when dealing with such subjects based on reality, and if you're like me at all in that respect, watching this film can be difficult. It's not that the movie is bad by any means, in fact, the story is told in a manner that really places you in the nightmare that these parents are going through, and being engaged in the story like that is what filmmakers generally strive for. The acting is really top-notch. Kyeong-gu Seol, and Kim Nam-joo, as the victimized parents, put in stellar performances that looked absolutely draining for them emotionally. It's possible that people might have issues with the film being slow at times, and that's because it takes you through this harrowing journey that lasts nearly 45 days. I can understand the directors intention with showing the daily process of the investigation, but it can be a bit much for less patient viewers. It really just depends on how engaged with the proceedings you are. I have to point out that the ending is easily one of the most haunting things I've seen or heard in a movie and will stick with me for quite some time.

Again, Voice of a Murderer is the type of film that doesn't exist to entertain and won't easily be forgotten after viewing. It exists to tell a story, that whether you like it or not, is real. I recommend this film for that very same purpose, because this is a story that deserved to be told and should most definitely be seen. (Lee)

Grade: B+


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