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Montage - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2013

Crime, Thriller

Jeong Geun-seop

Kim Sang-kyeong
Uhm Jung-hwa
Song Yeong-chang
Jo Hee-bong
Yoo Seung-mok
Jeong Hae-gyoon
Park Cheol-min
Ki Joo-bong
Heo Jeong-eun
Song Min-ji

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Story: Ha-kyeong (Uhm Jung-hwa) can't get over the death of her child. Almost fifteen years have passed since her daughter has been kidnapped and never came back home alive. The detective investigating the case at that time, Cheong-ho (Kim Sang-kyeong), sees her in order to inform her that in a few days the statute of limitation will make it impossible for the killer to be held responsible for his crime. But by chance a new lead turns up since a suspect laying down a flower has been caught by a traffic cam at the scene where Ha-kyeong's daughter died. The detective follows the lead even though time is running out on him. Soon after, the granddaughter of Han-cheol (Song Yeong-chang) is kidnapped and a ransom is demanded. The circumstances are identical with those fifteen years ago. Ha-kyeong is called in to work on the case and this time he swears that the killer won't get away. The evidence he collects on the new case are unusual, though, and somehow they partly don't fit together, while his colleagues believe that the case couldn't be any clearer...

Review: Somehow the subject lost its appeal. Korean thrillers which deal with the abduction of a child are a dime a dozen (see for example "Seven Days") and so the enthusiasm for "Montage" is so-so at first. But what makes the movie gain more and more momentum and also enriches its atmosphere is its well written story which isn't just exciting, but also raises some questions in terms of morality. Seldomly you get such a smartly written story. Smart not only because of numerous twists and a good resolution - other genre works managed to achieve that as well - but because the story remains plausible at all times and isn't completely far-fetched. Even though it is still - and luckily so - an extraordinary story.

Montage - Film Screenshot 11

The narrative is also pretty well chosen. At first we get a small montage (hence the movie's title), but we can't make much of it. As the story progresses a few speculations turn up at the surface about what actually might have happened the day Ha-kyeong has lost her daughter. At some point we even fear that Cheong-ho possibly may have been involved, but we have seen that already and accordingly this would have been a disappointment. No, the final twist is surprising and in fact realistic, but actually it isn't the movie's true highlight, instead it's the decisions made after that. "Montage" doesn't ever take the easy road sketching the characters' decisions good or bad, they simply remain human decisions and therefore plausible ones. Accordingly, the film also succeeds in working fine as a drama without overstepping the line to a tearjerker.

Montage - Film Screenshot 12

Actress Uhm Jung-hwa ("Bestseller", "Princess Aurora") is of course responsible for the more melodramatic scenes and she also has a few good moments, however, it is Kim Sang-kyeong ("The Tower", "Memories of Murder") who eventually manages through subtle acting to completely captivate the audience. And this although the film actually doesn't put its focus on any particular actor. It's in fact the story which is the star of the movie. The mood is, fittingly for a thriller, rather grim, but especially at the beginning it is loosened up by a few subtle jokes without them ever seeming cheap. Something not every director manages to accomplish.

Since we are already talking about the director: Jeong Geun-seop delivers his debut work here and he also wrote the story. He did an outstanding job, even the more as he sails around a few thriller clichés. Yet, there are a few he exploits nonetheless: Correspondingly Cheong-ho over and over again touches pontential evidence without putting on gloves and he is the only one who doesn't think that the suspect is guilty because evidence points at him just too easily. However, when there are clear inconsistencies his colleagues turn deaf. But maybe Jeong is toying with our expectations here. We know thrillers of that kind and thus are lulled into a false sense of security but also of moderate sleepiness, just to be surprised in a positive way afterwards. Because "Montage" clearly stands out from its genre competition.

Montage - Film Screenshot 13

Also a well achieved feat is that there are flashbacks constantly thrown in, yet they are never really made recognizable as such from the start and thus demand our mind to work a bit. Interestingly, it isn't that difficult to orientate yourself if you put a little bit of effort into it. What makes "Montage" a well done thriller is more than anything else its social and moral self-awareness and the touch this gives to the movie in a subtle way. There was already "Confession of Murder" that dealt with the topic of the statute of limitation for muder, but "Montage" sheds light on the subject from another perspective and is almost as effective. That there are nearly no action scenes isn't a downside at all because the tension in Jeong's debut work is obviously raised by the meticulously written story and the well scattered twists. Just the way it should be in a good thriller.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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