Hey everyone. I wasn’t able to post for a while due to a sort of elbow injury that required a lot of rest, elevation and icing of my arm. Sorry about that! I haven’t gotten much drama watching done either lately, but I did find the time to sneak in a film. Hope you’ll find this review useful.
[Be Forewarned: Spoilers Below].
The Third Murder is a legal thriller film edited, written, and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda. The film was first screened at the 74th Venice International Film Festival on September 4th, 2017 and was later released to Japanese audiences on September 9th, 2017. The film spans 124 minutes.
Defense lawyer Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama)—the son of a retired judge— takes on the case of Misumi (Koji Yakusho), a man previously convicted for a different murder, and one who will face the death penalty if found guilty at the upcoming trial. With Misumi having already confessed to the murder, Shigemori undertakes the task with no interest in uncovering the truth, and the single goal of helping his client avoid the death penalty. However, his attitude swiftly changes as the details of the case become increasingly convoluted. Growing more invested with each twist and turn, Shigemori begins to question his client’s guilt and demonstrates a deepening determination to ascertain the truth.
There’s no question that The Third Murder is beautifully shot and acted to perfection. Masaharu Fukuyama was alluring and believable on screen as the jaded Shigemori, who later begins an earnest search for the truth. Suzu Hirose is enjoyable as the the mild and mysterious Sakie Yamanaka; the daughter of the murder victim. The most compelling performance came from Koji Yakusho, who really brought some much needed depth to the character of Misumi. His performance was one of the few reasons I held on until the end. The film itself is exquisitely shot and well edited. No complaints here. Every scene was worth looking at and offered visual splendor. Equally as brilliant was Ludovico Einaudi’s musical score, which perfectly complemented and enhanced the tone of each respective scene.
Acting, cinematography, and music aside— I’m a bit frustrated with the way this film turned out. Quite frankly, the film was too long, too wordy, and too bland. Half way through the film, I was ready to call it quits. I thought I’d been sitting there for three hours, but in reality I’d only endured an hour. Additionally, this was a film where close attention was required throughout. Majority of the film consisted of interviewing, questioning, and chatting. Dialogue quite literally pervaded every second, leaving little room for moments of silence or contemplation. It was hard to digest and distinguish fact from fiction without those necessary pauses in dialogue. Not to mention, the excessive courtroom jargon was tiresome to keep up with.
I can’t help but feel the story was a poorly executed, contemporary allusion to Rashomon, plagued by poor pacing and psychological themes that stop just short of interesting. I am a fan of Kore-eda, but honestly speaking, this film fell flat in terms of meeting my expectations. The ideas were decent, but there was a failure to present them in way that did them justice—especially considering none of these ideas were new, and have previously been explored through film in a captivating manner by directors like Kurosawa. Even if it wasn’t Kore-eda’s intention to draw from a film like Rashomon, it is virtually impossible to avoid comparing the two. Regrettably for Kore-eda, there is no doubt that Rashomon finishes out on top (by a landslide).
The film focused on a few themes, taking care to point out the flaws of justice system and how it works. One point of significance the film chose to showcase was how truth can be disadvantageous when arguing a case in the court of law. In some instances, pleading guilty is the client’s best bet, as maintaining innocence can potentially become a tactical loss. Truth itself is questioned throughout as Misumi’s story takes on several different variations. Come the end of the film, both Shigemori and audiences are left wondering which version, if any, is true.
The problem lies in that Kore-eda never really fleshes out what he wants to say. Sure, there’s a cluster of thoughts and ideas floating around, but they never come together to create the driving force or underlying message the film so desperately needs. Absent of purpose, and forgettable once over, Kore-eda’s failure to establish the film’s intention leaves us with a long-winded assemblage of interviews and confessions that lead to nowhere. Equally disappointing are the lack of suspension and angst. Not a pressing moment goes by in this film. It slugs on without any sign or sense of urgency, leaving me not only bored, but unfeigned by what were intended to be plot twists, but were instead predictable moves. To be precise, there is no climax in The Third Murder, and that is perhaps the biggest issue I have with it.
The Third Murder is a good example of a film I wanted to like a lot more than I actually did. The acting, cinematography, and musical score were clearly what kept my attention. To say the film was terrible would be a reach. Average is probably the most accurate label I can apply, and it was definitely not the thriller I was hoping for to say the least.
In short, The Third Murder was underwhelming. I came for thrills, but got dialogue heavy court-related drama in return. While I enjoyed both the visual and acting prowess the film offered, the monotonous nature of the storyline was overpowering, resulting in a tedious watch. The film brings to light some philosophical questions that never get answered, and attempts to rattle audiences by failing to provide a clear account of what actually took place. Unfortunately, the story becomes so bogged down by courtroom jargon and details, that no one really gives a damn about the truth by its end.
Have you watched The Third Murder? What did you think of the film? If you haven’t already, you can check out the trailer here.