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Country of Origin: Korea
Released: 2002
Director: Lee Si-Myung
Languages: Korean, Japanese (in-movie, not separate tracks)
Subtitles: English (and done well)
Cast: Jang Dong-Gun, Toru Nakamura, Seo Jin-Ho, Shin Gu, Ahn Kil-Sang, Cho Sang-Keun, Chun Ho-Jin

I was actually looking for 2002 in the off-chance my local Blockbuster would have it, when I found this. Not clearly remembering what 2002 was about, and intrigued by yet another exotic import cropping up at such a mainstream store, I snagged it, half-hoping it was 2002 in disguise (title updated for export or some such - it's been known to happen). Well, it's not; the title is the original one.

I can't comment on the film's originality, however.

2009 Lost Memories takes place in an alternate Korea, in 2009. It is a Korea where - as we are shown in the brief, rapid-fire exposition - a crucial assassination of Ito Hirobumi (a Japanese statesman) was prevented in 1909, leading to the massive expansion of Japanese imperalism and the eventual annexation of Korea by that country. In original history (i.e., ours), this assassination set in motion the Korean Nationalist cause - in this altered one, the assassin (An Chung Gun) was stopped. (Note: I got this from an online review. The intro of the movie doesn't go into details as it is targeted towards people with knowledge of Korean history; the gist is however extremely easy to pick up in the 60s when the intro shows an alternate Japan flexing its muscles). In 2009, Koreans are a sub-class in their own country, the top positions of power and importance being held exclusively by native Japanese, or their hand-picked Korean sycophants. The Korean culture and tongue are nearly obliterated.

As is the case with not-quite-subjugated cultures, there are pockets of resistance to the Japanese steamroller. In particular, the resistance group Hureisenjin fights the domination with propaganda and quite often, violent means. It is into one of these hostage situations that two JBI officers, Masayuki Sakamoto (Jang Dong-Gun) and Shojiro Saigo (Toru Nakamura) are thrust into at the start of the film.

At the conclusion of the raid, some things don't add up very well to Sakamoto however. As he (driven by his Korean ancestry and his father's mysterious disgrace in the police department) starts to look into some inexplicably linked facts, patterns start to emerge. Before he knows it, he is drawn onto a secret carefully guarded for 100 years - and the fate of the world (no, really) depends on his choice between friendship, loyalty, or his country's freedom.

I don't really want to spoil the film, so I'll leave it at that. The film is one part police/conspiracy drama, one part morality play and one part gun opera. There's the tiniest bit of science fiction, if you accept alternate histories as science fiction - but it really serves as a vehicle for the plot, naught else.

The one-word description of the style in which 2009 is filmed would be either "bombastic" or "grandiose". There's nothing little in the editing or the camera work. Every crucial plot point is lovingly caressed with ultra slo-mo, be it glass falling slowly to the floor, or long soulful looks across burning wreckage. Heck, sometimes multiple passes (in slomo and with strong color filters) are required to bring off the drama that the director is evidently feeling at any given moment. These become more and more frequent towards the end, but you'll see them throughout the film, often accompanied by uber-dramatic swells of orchestral music intended to demonstrate that yes, this is what over-directing is like.

Despite all of these techniques (which swell a 90 minute story to an astonishing 180 minutes), the movie is enjoyable, if somewhat predictable around the halfway point (if not earlier). The gunfights are enjoyable, the characters fairly memorable, and the plot holes er ... well, they're there. On the balance, you'd be better off watching Shiri, but if you want something done with mega-glitter in the best tradition of Korean Hollywood, this is a perfect fit.

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