JSA – Joint Security Area ★★★★

JSA – Joint Security Area ★★★★

Chan-Wook Parks intense thriller is a departure from his vengeance trilogy (for those who have not caught his films in order), but it is certainly the film that put his name at the end of everyones tongues. This tragedy tale is an engrossing look at men who bond despite the conflict between their two nations. JSA – Joint Security Area is a wonderful slow burner that is now released via Arrow Video now.

Gunfire breaks out in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, leaving two North Korean soldiers dead while a wounded South Korean soldier (Lee Byung-hun) flees to safety. With the tenuous peace between the two warring nations on a knife-edge, a neutral team of investigators, headed by Swiss Army Major Sophie Jean (Lee Young-ae), is dispatched to question both sides to determine what really happened under cover of darkness out in no-man’s land.

By delivering the film through flashbacks, this becomes less of a political drama and more a tragedy of how divisions between countries cause irrefutable damage to friendship. We know the outcome from the start yet piece by piece JSA – Joint Security Area creates this heartbreaking friendship that grows stronger and stronger over time with meet ups. This intimate story reels in the audience and has us feel for both sides as we don’t know the full extent of what happened.

So when the chaos is fully explained to the audience it causes a gut punch reaction. This shouldn’t have been this way and to have a neutral in Major Jean there to help guide us and give a reason for some exposition is key. As she begins her investigation we are led down many dead ends due to the sheer stubbornness of both sides. This is something that feels as authentic as possible considering the continual levels of tension between the nations. So the decision to have Major Jean as neutral as possible is a blessing to the film. Although we may have preferences to the two countries, we are given characters who are equally as withheld and non-compliant.

Yes this realisation that both sides citizens (even military) can and do get on is a tad simple with the premise that it is their nations who are pitting these men against each other and that neither have fully complied with their senior officers. This slightly detracts from JSA – Joint Security Area as what should be an excellent drama or murder mystery thriller with the political aspect in the undertones. We have a film that pushes too much at times the political nature even if it is as apparent as it can be. However this is still a film that grabs you and takes you for the intriguing ride.

JSA – Joint Security Area is a film that needs more eyes on it as it is truly a great movie. With Arrows Blu-Ray release, hopefully this will help that. You won’t be disappointed when you catch this.


  • High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentation
  • Original lossless Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and PCM 2.0 stereo soundtracks
  • Optional English subtitles
  • New audio commentary by writer and critic Simon Ward
  • Isolated music and effects track
  • Newly recorded video interview with Asian cinema expert Jasper Sharp
  • The JSA Story and Making the Film, two archival featurettes on the film’s production
  • About JSA, a series of archival introductions to the film by members of the cast
  • Behind the scenes montage
  • Opening ceremony footage
  • Two music videos: Letter from a Private and Take the Power Back
  • Theatrical trailer
  • TV spot
  • Image gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Kieran Fisher

JSA – Joint Security Area is released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video on 18 January.


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