MOVIE CLUB REVIEW: Genome Hazard
Thrillers come in all shapes and sizes, but the best give us suspense with the payoff of mystery, wrapped in a narrative worth the journey. But Wendilynn, Pamela, and I found that Genome Hazard also exhibited a story centered on a hero that allowed us to search and solve along with him without being overshadowed by diabolical villains or the trappings of contrived romance, topped with the freedom to form our own hypotheses unencumbered by polarizing diatribes.
Unnichan: Well, I don’t know about you guys but I chose this film solely for Nishijima Hidetoshi (I'm allergic to spoilers), and I was in it with him almost from the beginning. However, I do have to say, when we learned pretty early on, he wasn’t going to be a discernible protagonist, I got a little concerned for Ishigami Taketo.
Wendilynn: I was intrigued by a movie that was about memory loss. I know how we here in the US think about memory loss, but I wanted to see how another culture might deal with it. What it would mean. I have to admit that I was immediately drawn into the story and was just as confused with our hero the whole ride.
Pamela: On my end, I chose to put my name down for this film because...I’m not really sure why. Maybe it was the memory loss. Maybe it was the double identity. Maybe I just felt like channeling the inner science lover that almost never shows up anymore. In any case, this was an engaging story, like Wendi-unni said, and the fact that our confusion matched the protagonist’s for most of the time made the movie even more gripping.
Unnichan: I love films that indulge my inner "super sleuth" without feeling invasive. Thinking along with characters is what I like to do most; my brain working with theirs to connect the dots. This film certainly does that. At times, we may be a second or two ahead of Ishigami but experiencing his steps the entire way.
Wendilynn: The director did an excellent job with this movie. When clues were given, the misdirection that wasn’t misdirection. The writing was also really on point. Nishijima sold his poor character with every line and body movement. Did either of you find yourself also shivering when Ishigami was also upset and shaky? I was so into his character that I found myself getting all tense every time he did.
Pamela: I at least found myself flinching or jumping often throughout the movie, which is all I can ask for. The writing was paced well, and there was barely a moment of boredom. Nishijima’s every tremble and pant were great little nuances to his performance. This is the first project of his that I’ve had the privilege of seeing - I say privilege because...wow, that man is attractive...and definitely talented.
Wendilynn: The camera work also reflected Ishigami’s state of mind, which I think helps the viewer stay with the character as he runs around trying to solve the mystery of his unreliable head. The reporter that decides to help him was really brave. If I had run into a guy in that state, whose every direction kept coming up wrong, I’d probably have driven him to the nearest hospital. lol
Unnichan: That’s one reason I find Kang Ji Won (Kim Hyo Jin) such an interesting character. For she’s the one I identified with the most; intrigued but skeptical--- wondering who on earth this man really is, yet compelled to help him anyway. However, I found myself questioning her quite often. She cracked me up each time she met him and tried to feed him. Though, if a man had jumped in front of my car and climbed in with a gun, he proceeded to drop, then beg me for help, perhaps I’d feel inclined to trust him. *shrugs*
Pamela: She wanted an interesting story, and whether she ever decided to publicize it (which I doubt), she got one. Kang Ji Won starts out with a feeling of grudging annoyance towards him, but her eventual devotion in going in-depth into the life story of a seemingly random man she met is respectable.
Wendilynn: Well, I think she was humoring him more than anything up until she finds her lead’s cellphone in his apartment. She was in Japan following a story and then it ran into her car… literally. lol
Unnichan: Usually, a coincidence like that would irritate me and feel contrived. And though it could still be interpreted that way, it felt as though she was truly the only person in the world who would help him, help himself. For, at one point she realizes the best thing for him to do is recognize his memories can’t be relied upon as the sole factor and key to “the mystery.” I don’t think this was something he didn’t intuitively know but Ji Won putting voice to it, laid things in greater perspective.
Wendilynn: It helps sometimes to have an outside person who can be a voice of reason when things are upside down.
Pamela: Memories can be a burden, whether you cannot lose them or when you already have done so. This movie demonstrates how the latter can shake up your entire existence. When you don’t know what you have or where you can turn, or even who you are, memories both piece your life together and tear it apart. Kang Ji Won was the person who was actually attempting to help Nishijima’s character make sense of his ordeal, or at least was the one person who attempted without her life becoming wrecked.
Unnichan: Which was also an interesting feat, if you ask me. To be engrossed in someone else’s life but still remain unaffected. There was a certain impact, of course, but not one that seemed to hamper or disrupt her life.
Wendilynn: I liked that they didn’t try to contrive a romance between our two leads. This was a story of a married man whose life was coming undone; whose wife may or may not be dead. They respected that fact and kept her role to helping solve the puzzle.
Pamela: If there had been a stab at a romance, the story and the characterization would have been compromised. The male lead especially would have suffered. We can’t necessarily trust his mind throughout the movie, but to some extent, we can trust his heart. What happens to him is the fault of science and greed, not of his own conscious desires.
Unnichan: Agreed. Nishijima and Hyo Jin did have a great synergy about them but that never had to translate to romance. The vibe of this film reminds me immensely of Memento; a story about one man trying desperately to piece together his life and love with faulty memories. Then to add that bit of mad scientist to the mix, tows that neverending debate between research, “the Greater Good” and the individual. I like that this film lays those ideas before us, yet doesn’t create a need to shake fists at conglomerate rule but rather an individual’s choice and motivation.
Wendilynn: I really appreciated that intimacy to the story. Instead of bringing in a big brother situation, this was more personal and private. Our Journalist was able to stay divorced from the bigger problems because our “bad guys” weren’t really concerned with her. There was no threat to her because of how intimate the story was between our hero and our “bad guys”.
Pamela: The idea of there being “bad guys” is kind of ambiguous in this movie, too, which allows more freedom for us to react. The men who try to take the protagonist away are shaped out to be bad, as is the main villain, but at the same time, characters who aren't villainous have some such qualities as well. Friends aren’t entirely friends, wives aren’t entirely wives, but we and Ji Won have no impact on the story whether we hate or tolerate the characters. It’s Nishijima’s character’s choice. We get glimpses of the other sides of the story without being bombarded by Nishijima’s moral opinions, so we can form our own.
Wendilynn: That’s a good way of putting it. We aren’t put in the position of judge and jury in this movie. We are simply trying to put the pieces together to find the real story and what that might mean for our hero.Wendilynn: That’s a good way of putting it. We aren’t put in the position of judge and jury in this movie. We are simply trying to put the pieces together to find the real story and what that might mean for our hero.
Unnichan: Which is why I’d say this is a must see thriller, if only for our hero. For he isn’t extraordinary, though I will admit at times he does extraordinary things. He’s a character we root for because he comes across as the common name. And not just because he told us he was.
Wendilynn: I enjoyed this movie so much. I can recommend it easily to anyone who wants a well told intimate mystery to watch.
Pamela: For anyone looking for two hours devoid of boredom and thoughts that will stick with you until they spew out of your fingers, I would definitely suggest watching this movie.
Quick Film Facts:
Written and directed by Kim Sung Su, Genome Hazard is based on Shiro Tsukasaki's book of the same name. Actress Kim Hyo Jin had only three weeks to learn her Japanese lines before filming commenced. The project was a joint South Korean/Japan production, where the cast and production crew were recruited from both countries. The movie was released first in South Korea in 2013 and later in Japan in January of 2014.
Watch Genome Hazard:
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