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Original Title:
Joyonghan Sesang

South Korea 2006

Thriller, Mystery, Drama

Jo Eui-seok

Park Yong-woo
Kim Sang-kyung
Han Bo-bae
Lee Me-ri
Jeong Gyoo-soo
Lee Jong-soo
Ham Eun-jeong
Oh Jeong-se
Kim Dong-ah
Song Min-joo
Lee Ki-yeol

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World of Silence

Story: Detective Kim (Park Yong-woo) is a relaxed and lazy cop, who approaches things his way and always in a calm manner. His cynicism doesn't go well with his colleagues, but that's nothing he is concerned about. A series of murders on little girls who are all from the same orphanage, is his sole focus of interest. A suspect is soon found: photographer Ryoo Jeong-ho (Kim Sang-kyung). Kim already met Ryoo on several occasions and even though the photographer prevented two crimes from happening, something just seems to be odd about him...
Jeong-ho, who has to struggle with his past, has to take care of little Soo-yeon (Han Bo-bae) for his uncle. Kim finds out, that Soo-yeon grew up in the same orphanage as all the other victims, and so he keeps a close eye on her. However, soon he discovers that the photographer can't be the culprit. Moreover, Detective Kim finds out that Jeong-ho seems to be able to see things others miss. The former "enemies" work together to protect little Soo-yeon, with whom Jeong-ho meanwhile shares a close father-daughter relationship, despite his initial emotionlessness towards her. But can the them of Kim and Ryoo catch the killer before he strikes again?

Review: "World of Silence" is a neat detective thriller, which weaves a little bit of supernatural elements into an otherwise character-driven story, and which despite some serious mishaps manages to be guite engaging and entertaining. What at first might seem like a cat-and-mouse game between Detective Kim and Ryoo, soon proves to be a thriller that heads into a different direction. Ryoo may remain somewhat mysterious, cold and reserved, but especially his blossoming father-daughter relationship with Soo-yeon clearly shows that he actually is a likeable guy, who is just haunted by the demons of his past.

Most of the time the story follows a well-proven formula. Apart from a few story threads you can always see in advance how things will evolve, as it is the case with one of the funny side characters, a burglar who just so happens to break into the home of the serial killer. The story may never be really inventive, but there are enough satisfying and surprising little twists unveiled, after we have been led into the dark for a while, of course. Just as it is supposed to be with a good thriller. Naturally, this doesn't come without some rather unbelievable conincidences that serve as a means to an end to push the story forward.
Director Jo Eui-seok, however, did a pretty good job in adding a supernatural element to the plot in a very unobtrusive manner. "World of Silence" would have worked without this element, too, but it becomes actually more interesting and compelling thanks to it. It may have just been the director's intention to make the character of Ryoo more multi-layered and colorful with this supernatural supplement, but in the end it fits surprisingly well into the main plot, which revolves around the individual characters.

It's the two main actors, who make this film a whole, no doubt about that. The movie places its focus strongly on its characters, especially on Ryoo, which is a good choice, as the filmmakers actually manage to add several pieces and narrative strands to a whole this way. Which is more than most thrillers achieve.
Unfortunately, there are also some mishaps to point at. We don't get to know much about Detective Kim and his private life. We find out that he is someone who is disappointed by the world and turns to his cynism, trying to get along with the crimes he has seen by taking things not so seriously. There seems to be nothing that he takes pleasure in, except his job, of course. This even goes to such lengths that he actually lets a small-time criminal run away, because he apparently seems to have fun chasing him. Even if he never actually goes after him, but just seems to be always at the right place, at the right time. Only when it comes to child murders things look different, and Kim once again has to ask himself, how the world could have come to this, while trying to solve this tangled-up case.

"World of Silence" has a dark and melancholic atmosphere to it most of the time, just as it is supposed to be with a good detective thriller. Ryoo's character, his past with a girl whom he fell in love with in his youth and who eventually commited suicide, as well as the story around Soo-yeon and her mother who is in a coma, all add to the gloomy and sad mood. Only Kim and his several interludes and encounters with some low-life gangsters manage to bring some humor into play, which serves as a welcome change to the otherwise depressing mood of the film.
The slow development of a relationship between Ryoo and his temporary daughter Soo-yeon deserve some special words of praise. Han Bo-bae ("Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance") delivers the best acting achievement of them all and is the main reason why the relationship feels very credible and without any clichés.
There is almost no action, still the movie proves to be enjoyably thrilling, and even the sometimes excessive introductions of the several characters aren't that interfering. Only throughout the middle the film loses some of its momentum and the pacing drags a bit.

From a technical point of view the movie is shot with an experienced eye for what's important, but the film never stands out with a special cinematography etc. Some of the flashbacks of Ryoo, however, stand in good contrast to the otherwise dark, depressing, but unspectacular cinematography. Apart from that, the movie scores with two interesting main characters.
At times the film proves to be surprisingly multi-layered, at others we already know in advance how the story will unfold. This also applies to the finale, which becomes rather predictable for anyone who isn't new to the genre. Nonetheless, "World of Silence" doesn't fail to serve some neat twists and to be more engaging and touching, than we would have thought possible, as there are some serious mishaps and a story that's not flawless. For a character-driven thriller the protagonists would have deserved a little bit more depth, also, but the end product succeeds in being a nice treat for every fan of the genre.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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