2009-Lost Memories

June, 2005, Drama

2009: Lost Memories

Here's an import from South Korea, made three years ago, but just now reaching a limited American audience. The film's premise is an interesting one, but first time writer/director Si-Myung Lee can't decide whether he's doing science-fiction, action/adventure or a mythic take on the process by which national memory impacts the culture of a country whose citizens have been traumatized by foreign invasion and occupation. In the future, may his talent exceed his ambition.

Working with a large cast, (lacking a single face recognizable to Western audiences) Lee posits a world in which Japan and the U.S. were allies in WW II. As a result, Japan has retained it's control of Korea into the 21st century, treating the peninsula as a permanent, detached part of greater Japan, in much the same way the U.S. absorbed Hawaii and Alaska. The storyline suggests that these events were set in motion by a failed assassination attempt in 1909, when a Japanese official survived an attempt on his life while visiting the city of Harbin. In the last years of the first decade of the 21st century, the national police, (a mixture of Korean nationals and Japanese officers seconded there) wage a battle against a terrorist group seeking to re-establish Korean independence. 

The script posits an indigenous national memory that can be revived only by sending someone back to 1909 to successfully murder the official whose administration set Japan on its successful domination. This time-travel, (reminiscent of something out of H.G. Wells) can only be accomplished by locating a series of artifacts preserving key elements Korean culture. One member of the police counter-terrorism squad becomes convinced this is the only way to solve the long-running battle between government forces and the rebels, so he assembles the necessary national treasures, (after a number of mind-numbing violent shoot-outs) returns to the year 1909, completes the killing and allows the actual events of the 20th century to occur.

The acting ranges from bad to awful and the action sequences are wildly overdone imitations of Hong Kong director John Woo, while the 136-minute running time is far too long to sustain the film's flimsy premise and heavy handed emotional style.

Mr. Lee gets an A- for concept but an F for execution. Don't even bother trying it on DVD. 

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