Cast: Heo Sungtae, Kim Dongyoung, Kim Sangkyung, Park Sunyoung
Closing Night Film, 2019 Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival
THE 12TH SUSPECT takes place in a post-war Seoul where tensions still linger and spill into the Oriental Tea House. The murder of a teahouse regular draws both the attention of a military inspector and the silence of the artists and intellectuals who frequently gather there. Something doesn’t feel quite right as casual conversation piques the curiosity-turned-interrogation of a military inspector from special operations. As the characters piece together aloud what might have happened to the poet, the plot paces towards its underlying premise: how are everyday people supposed to live under the rule of any government? In THE 12TH SUSPECT, the truth might resemble a ball of yarn, but in reality, it’s razor wire wound tight.
In his first feature narrative, Ko Myoungsung uses noir to bring corruption from out of the shadows of Korea’s checkered past. Largely set over the course of one night, the film’s slowly gripping tempo and sepia-colored undertones have its characters hiding in plain sight, save for the teahouse’s madam.
The 12TH SUSPECT examines national history at a time when fear of another war weighs heavy on the psyches of Koreans, and patriotism is used as justification for weeding out the enemy.