20 Jun The Attorney Review
A Powerhouse Performance by Song Kang-ho.
The Attorney, the debut feature from South Korean writer-director Yang Woo-seok, tells the story of wealthy tax attorney, Song Woo-seok, as he takes on a controversial National Security case to help a wrongly convicted friend. With only a high school education and very few professional connections, Song has managed to rise in the ranks and become one of his city’s most successful lawyers. His idea of success shifts dramatically, however, when the son of a neighborhood friend is falsely accused of treason, tortured and put on trial for the charges. As the trial progresses and the truth comes to light, we see Song’s unlikely transformation from unaffected bystander to heartfelt activist willing to risk nearly everything for his principles.
When we first meet the film’s protagonist, he is slowly, yet steadily beginning his ascent up the corporate ladder. He revamps his office and hires a new legal team, moves into a spacious apartment with a view of the city, and is on the verge of signing a new, high profile client. He has come by his success through earnest hard work, yet holds fast to the principle that the world is a stubborn, unchangeable place. This is most apparent in an unsettling scene in which a drunken Song publically denounces a group of student political protestors, asserting their foolishness and naivety for believing that their efforts would inspire change. Witness to this outburst is the teenage son of Song’s longtime friend, Choi Soon-ae. In a brief confrontation between Song and the boy, we see for the first time Song’s weakness: his thirst for financial success has blinded him to the injustices around him. When Choi and her son shut him out, he is forced to reflect upon his own ignorance and how it affects those he cares for most.
It is no surprise that Song’s radical shift in perspective is caused by the arrest and detainment of the young boy. Accused of fabricated, communist related crimes, the boy is unlawfully held in captivity, beaten, and starved until he agrees to a false confession. Song, after some very convincing begging and pleading by Choi, is spurred into action. Leading man, Song Kang-ho, handles this masterfully, truly shining in his courtroom scenes.
The Attorney does not conclude with a picture perfect victory for Song and his legal team. They do not win the battle; the boy and his comrades are sentenced to jail time for crimes they did not commit. Yet it can be argued that Song is winning the war, his own personal war with his conscience and morality. While it’s certainly not the most original legal drama to appear on the silver screen, The Attorney represents a sort of social commentary that resonates not just with the citizens of South Korea, but also with people everywhere. Anchored by true events and propelled by a powerhouse performance by leading man, Song Kang-ho, The Attorney makes for a successful outing by the first time writer-director.
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This guest blog was written by Colleen Shields.