Last Witness

"...just too much information packed into too short a time."

- Equinox21

Last Witness (2001)

Director: Bae Chang-ho

Screenplay: Bae Chang-ho

Producer: Chung Tae-won

Cast: Lee Jung-jae, Lee Mi-yeon, Ahn Sung-ki, Chung Jun-ho

Running Time: 103 min.

Plot: A corpse is found floating down the Han River. It is the corpse of a man named Yang Dal-Soo. Detective Oh comes across several tell-tale clues: metal framed glasses specially manufactured in Japan, the word "Daeryang" printed on a torn-up business card, as well as two photographs found in Yang's home. Oh goes to Ok-Cheon Elementary School, where Yang's pictures were taken. While investigating he finds a diary written a very long time ago by Sohn Ju-Hye, and discovers the unbelievable secret about the Geoje P.O.W. Camp...

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EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: Boy, talk about an overly convoluted movie.  Last Witness starts out like a basic detective movie, but then moves from obscure clue to obscure clue in an unnecessarily confusing way.  You'd need to watch this one 3 times just to understand how every minor character and every piece of evidence fits into the whole scheme of things (which turns out to be pretty predictable, anyway).

The movie starts out with a murdered body being discovered in a river.  It's up to "loose cannon" Detective Oh (Lee Jeong-Jae) to solve it.  I use the term "loose cannon" lightly because he was warned at the beginning of the movie by his boss that he'd better not screw up again or he'd be reprimanded· however, contrary to what would be expected, he never DOES get into any more trouble.  It was a seemingly foreshadowing statement that never pans out in the end.  As Oh discovers more and more about this murder, which at first looks like a simple drug related murder, he finds out more about the past.  The past stories are told through flashbacks as Oh reads a diary that he discovers as evidence during his investigation.  Overall, it's impossible to describe the entirety of the plot in one paragraph, because it's just too overly complex.  This is due to the fact that it is based on a true story, and so the screenwriter/director probably tried to get in as much of the actual story as possible into a 100 minute movie.  It simply doesn't work that well.

The plot is really the only part of this movie that could have used a major overhaul.  The cinematography was astounding.  I was shocked at how well done it was, as I was expecting a simple cop drama with nothing overly interesting.  I'm glad I was wrong.  Another terrific element of Last Witness was the soundtrack.  It was a wonderful mix of music that really fit each scene like a glove.  Although, in some scenes it almost gave you a feeling of over the top melodrama; however, I believe this was due to the plot not being very engaging.  As the plot never draws you deeply in, you aren't as affected by the touching music used during the more dramatic scenes.

Last Witness wasn't bad, but it was just too much information packed into too short a time.  It really could have used another hour to set up and describe each character and give them some background so as to solidify what the actual story was about and why each event that occurred was so important.  Even though it's based on a true story (and on a book based on that same story), the director undoubtedly took some cinematic liberties with it, as some of the events, such as the finale, are pretty unrealistic (one of those "only in the movies" moments).