Weekend Viewing Roundup & MSPIFF14 Review: Intruders (2013)

MSPIFF14_April6

After the snow storm on Friday, this weekend turned out to be absolutely gorgeous. Saw four movies this weekend:

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier for the second time around (yep, still love it!). It’s currently my favorite Marvel stand-alone movie!
  • Capricorn One – a fantastic 1977 space conspiracy thriller (Thanks Michael for lending it to me!). Review upcoming but I really enjoyed this one, and that ending was awesome!
    CapricornOnePostr
  • For my first day at MSPIFF, I saw two films yesterday:
    BraveMissWorld_JOE

Here’s our reviews of Brave Miss World and David Gordon Green’s JOE. I’m thrilled to not only saw such a great documentary about such an important yet devastating issue of rape, but I got to meet filmmaker Cecilia Peck, yes Gregory Peck daughter! After the Q&A, I went up to her and tell her how huge of a fan I was of her dad, and that I appreciate her making such a great film on an important topic. She clearly cares about social justice issues like her dad did, and she is just as beautiful inside and out as well. Too bad all four of the photos taken were so dark (turns out the flash was off), but you could see a bit of our smiling faces I think 😀

CeciliaPeckAndMe_MSPIFF14


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I’m thrilled to tag team with Josh from JJames Reviews (who’s way more than qualified btw) in covering MSPIFF 2014! He’ll be contributing MSPIFF reviews for the next three weeks. Starting with this one from South Korea:

INTRUDERS

IntrudersKoreaPoster

The Festival staffperson who introduced Intruders pitched it as being “Fargo by way of South Korea.” She wasn’t far off, at least when considering the ways both films generate humor through flawed characters and unexpected plot twists. That each includes sweeping wintry landscapes and impressive cinematography facilitates the comparison, as well.

In Intruders, writer Sang-jin (Jun Suk-ho) takes a bus to the Gangwon province in South Korea’s mountainous north, where he plans to stay at a closed and otherwise unoccupied bed and breakfast that belongs to his boss’s family. While alone at the resort, Sang-jin hopes to finally complete his screenplay, for which his boss is impatiently waiting. Unfortunately, the writer faces significant challenges, including writers’ block, a talkative ex-convict named Hak-su (Oh Tae-kyung), two scary hunters, a group of young skiers who think he manages the resort, and a local police officer (Choi Moo-soung). It only gets worse when he becomes increasingly convinced that the bed and breakfast is unsafe.

Along the way, Intruders reminds us of several mainstream films, including, of course, Fargo (1996), but also Prisoners (2013) and Misery (1990), a project writer/director Noh Young-seok jokingly references in Intruders’ first act. All are favorable comparisons, largely because Noh makes many strong authorial and directorial decisions. Start with his screenplay, which impressively shows not tells the most important characters. We know Sang-jin intimately, despite only passing references to his backstory and limited dialogue explaining his current motivations. Then, we see him change through carefully developed scenes.

Hak-su and the cop are similarly well written, but Noh struggles a bit with his secondary characters. The hunters are enigmas and most of the skiers are stereotypically inconsiderate youngsters, indistinguishable from one another. Only Yu-mi (Han En-sun) is given some treatment, but even she is too thinly defined, what with only two character traits: angry and shrill.

Intruders_Korea_Stills

Yet, Noh Young-seok’s screenplay mostly overcomes flaws in development of secondary characters, partially because it masterfully foreshadows plot twists, so well, in fact, that we are never certain what will happen next, but also never stunned into disbelief by new developments. In his long opening sequence, for instance, Noh shows Sang-jin’s obliviousness, playing it for humor but also staying with it long enough that we know it will be important later. Frequent newscasts foreshadow what is to come, as do many other examples I will not directly cite.

That Intruders is often laugh out loud funny, even in its darkest moments, helps as well. As do the actors, all of whom are perfectly understated. Special mention to Oh Tae-kyung who plays Hak-su so skillfully that we can never be certain whether or not the character is an innocent bystander, a villain or something in between.

Neither the screenplay nor the actors are Intruders greatest merit, however. Noh’s direction is. Take for example, his camera work. By frequently placing subjects in the center of the screen, and by using lengthy point of view shots, the director increases our sense of intimacy with his characters. Plus, he keeps the camera perfectly still for the majority of the film, only to move it in bursts of lengthy pans, arcs and editing cuts, techniques that heighten or lessen tension fittingly. As just one more example of Noh’s directorial talent, Intruders’ ambiguous symbolism works very well; when, at one point, Noh cuts away to a close up of a spider web, we have to wonder: is Sang-jun the spider or the trapped prey?

The director is so good that we can overlook Intruders’ unsatisfying jump cut to end credits or its inconsistent use of telephones. No matter its few minor flaws, this film is very good.

four and a half stars out of five
4 out of 5 reels

P.S. So far, Intruders lacks US distribution. Hopefully that changes.

Review by Josh

JJamesReviews


Thoughts on the film(s) above? What did YOU see this weekend, folks?

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54 thoughts on “Weekend Viewing Roundup & MSPIFF14 Review: Intruders (2013)

  1. So glad to hear you enjoyed ‘Capricorn One’. It remains an under appreciated conspiracy thriller. Saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier for the second time yesterday, this time with my daughter. She loved it and I think I appreciated a bit more, having noticed more what filmmakers worked in. Your film fest looks like fun. We’ll (Aurora, Paula, Kellee, Will, and I) be at TCMFF this week. Thanks for the update, Ruth.

    1. THANK YOU again for lending me Capricorn One, man that’s our favorite I think amongst the 70s conspiracy thrillers we’ve been watching so far. Too bad it’s under-appreciated.

      Woo hoo!! You’ll be at TCMFF? I’m sooo jealous! I wish I could join you, Paula and Aurora. How awesome that you got to meet ’em. Are you going to have a get-together at the fest?

      1. We hope so. I know for sure most of us will be at Saturday’s screening of Gojira (aka Godzilla), the Ishirô Honda classic from 1954, presented by Gareth Edwards at the Egyptian Theatre.

  2. Ted S.

    Intruders sounds interesting, I think I saw a trailer of it a while back. Might give it a rent.

    As you know, my friend and I went to see Capt. 2 last Friday and I think I’m going to see it again later this week at the fake IMAX theater.

    Glad you enjoyed Capricorn One, it’s surprising to me that not too many people have heard of it. Probably because it didn’t star a big named actor and wasn’t a box office success like say Three Days of the Condor, The Marathon Man or All The President’s Men. I’m hoping the propose remake that’s been in development since late 2000s never come to fruition. I’m afraid the remake will just be a big budget action/adventure and nothing else.

    1. Yeah it’s too bad Capricorn One wasn’t as popular as the others, but you’re right it didn’t have big stars. Funny seeing OJ Simpson on there tho, he barely acted at all in that film. I though James Brolin was good, and so was Hal Holbrook.

      Oy I hope they won’t remake it as it’ll never be as good!

      1. Ted S.

        Lol, I totally forgot that OJ Simpson appeared in the movie. He actually appeared in a lot of movies back in those days, heck he was the first choice to play The Terminator! Ha ha.

    2. Hey, Ted. Intruders is definitely an interesting movie. And a very well made one at that. Hopefully Noh continues getting funding, and/or breaks into the US market. He’s a director to watch.

      And it seems like I need to see Capricorn One. 🙂

      1. Ted S.

        I’ll kept an eye out for Intruders, maybe it’ll go directly to VOD if/when it gets a distribution here.

        Yeah, check out Capricorn One when you get a chance, it’s not available on Bluray yet though.

  3. Good job Ruth & Josh. Good stuff. I am really excited to see Joe. The buzz is noteworthy and some are saying this is the Nic Cage they have been waiting to see again.

    1. Ruth will be posting my review of Joe in the coming days – I sent it to her earlier today. It is definitely a quality flick. And Cage is very, very good. Maybe he’s finally going to start picking better movies again, what with an interesting character/performance in Frozen Ground (2013) and now Joe.

    2. Yeah it was pretty good though quite intense for my feeble nerves. Ask Josh, I actually have my eyes closed for a lot of the scenes, he..he.. Nic Cage is fantastic in this role, proof that he indeed still got the chops!

  4. Ruth, thanks again for letting me participate in your coverage of the fest. It has already been a lot of fun – I can’t wait for more. 🙂

    And it seems official . . . I need to see Capricorn One. It’s been added to the list.

  5. Josh and Ruth! Fun reads. Ruth, WOW Gregory Peck’s daughter? I’m super jealous.
    I’d really excited about reading about Joe.
    So let me get this straight. MN is home to Ruth, Josh, and Michael? We should meet in Chicago for our own movie crawl (since I’m from Illinois). What fun we could have for the day! 😉

    1. Hello Cindy! No Michael (Le0pard13) is in LA, but as far as a meet-up in Chicago, I’m SO game! I love that City, in fact I’ll be there in early May 😀

  6. Great post, Ruth (and great review, Josh!) Lookingforward to your thoughts on Brave Miss World and Joe. I didn’t watch any movies this weekend but watched a lot of TV: an episode each of Sherlock, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, True Detective, Modern Family, Community and a couple of eps of Friends.

    1. Hi Fernando! I should have both of those reviews by tomorrow, it’s me who’s slacking off in writing the review.

      Whoa, that is a lot of TV man, good for you tho! Maybe you’ll do a mini review roundup of some of ’em? 😉

        1. I love Sherlock but haven’t got around to season 3 yet. I REALLY want to see True Detective but not sure when I can find the time y’know? Too many films/shows too little time, which I’m sure you can understand 😀

    1. Indeed Mark! Is there a local film fest near you? That’s always the perfect opportunity to catch a gem you otherwise won’t get around to.

    2. Intruders was definitely surprised me. I only went to it, because it was slotted in a time I could attend. Once I’d seen it, I was happy I had. 🙂

  7. I didn’t get to see much this weekend other than a few re-watches as well as The Lone Ranger on TV which was OK. I was just busy helping my mom get ready for somethings as her favorite cousin is coming on Friday with her husband and kids. At least I got to see WrestleMania XXX last night and it was a really good one where there were some great things but… I’m still in shock over what happened which I think was… impossible…

    I’m sure you’re not familiar with WrestleMania or the Undertaker as for a long time, he had an undefeated streak of 21 and 0 but last night… well… I’ll let this link show you exactly on how I felt last night as well as the 75,000 people at the Superdome last night.

  8. I’m definitely intrigued by Intruders and interested in checking out this director’s approach, There’s a number of good Korean movies I’ve caught up on in the last year or so, this sounds like another good one.

    1. it is another good one. And very good at that.

      I hope you can find some way to see it (and I hope it gets a distribution deal, though the festival employees say that seems unlikely).

  9. Hey, that’s really cool that you met Cecilia Peck, Ruth. Looking forward to your reviews on those festival showings.

    Also, nice review, Josh. “Fargo by way of South Korea” is all I needed to hear to be interested. 😀 Hope it gets picked up here in the US.

    1. Hi Eric! It was such a huge honor to have met her. She’s beautiful and soft spoken, and very friendly too. I should have my review of Brave Miss World and Josh’s review of JOE today 😀

  10. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth:

    Intruders sounds interesting. Whose to say South Korea cannot have quirky, perhaps dangerous characters?

    Glad you liked Capricorn One . Hal Holbrook often excels as a kind of slimy underneath his skin, bad guy. Traits also dabbled with in Magnum Force .

    1. Hey thanks to your recommendations that I finally got to see Capricorn One, Kevin! Btw, Michael was kind enough to lend me that one and also The Ninth Configuration, which you mentioned in your article on Stacey Keith 🙂

      1. jackdeth72

        Hi, Ruth:

        You’re welcome!

        I think you’ll enjoy The Ninth Configuration for its setting, backdrop, occasionally off the wall characters and subtle spirituality. A great vehicle for Mr. Keach to under play. And an exceptional job of direction from the novel’s author, William Peter Blatty.

    2. Hey, Kevin. Sorry I’m late in replying, but Intruders is quite good. And the great part about it is that we cannot be certain which characters, exactly, are dangerous. The three leads are well crafted, even the screenplay under-develops the secondary characters.

      1. jackdeth72

        Hi, Josh:

        Intruders sounds interesting. I’m always up for a film with a full deck of inscrutable characters to constantly keep you guessing!

  11. Pingback: MSPIFF14: First Roundup | jjames reviews

  12. Abbi

    I normally really enjoy South Korean cinema in all its bonkers brutality. This sounds like something I’d enjoy!

    1. I think you would, Abbi. Like Fargo, the violence is mostly implied, not on the screen. The meat of this story is the character’s psychology and the fine performances. Not to mention the director’s technical brilliance. if you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend it.

  13. But you say that it does not have distribution? Yet you say the directing is outstanding and the film itself is quite impressive? Really dude, really? Not pleased with you making me want to watch this film when no timeline is available! I WANT TO WATCH IT.

    Sweet poster!

    1. The poster is pretty awesome, isn’t it? And yeah. That this doesn’t have distribution is annoying. I hope you can figure out some way to see it – I have a feeling you, in particular, would quite enjoy it.

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