Movie review : The Attorney (2013)

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For weeks from now, my homepage likely will be filled with movie review, specially Korean or Japanese movie. Yes I’m a big fan of korean movie, and thanks to Telkom Indihome, enabling to download >10 movies once i’m home 🙂 Let’s get started on first review, The Attorney.

The Attorney (변호인) is 2013 film directed by Yang Woo-suk, depicting Korean culture and how politic’s going in there from late 70s to 80s. The attorney tells us a story about a successful lawyer who leaves his comfort zone to assist communist defendant, which is actually just a fake case set up by a flawed government and its absurd law enforcement. The film starring korean leading actor, Song Kang-ho as Song Woo-suk. He is a lawyer whose only a high schooll diploma but succeed his career and gain money through hard work and self-study

The film is adopted from a real story of Roh Moo-hyun, the ninth President of the Republic of Korea. That’s why it is so accurate in illustrating Koreans in the last 30 years. In 70s, Song Woo-suk is a typical korean person who seeks to gain money and prosperity as fast as possible (got it from imdb review). This kind of people then became social survivor in 1990s and the political figure of 2000s. Just like in Indonesia, right?


With background in Busan, the film starts off slowly in 1978 telling daily life of Song and family, with a little comedy on it. This beginning part teach us how we can achieve our goals through hard and smart work. Though he didn’t attend university, Song can become a successful attorney because he’s doing property and tax law, when other lawyers still think it is what notaries do. He really enjoy earning much money and don’t really care to what really happening in his country, that is injustice and corrupt system.

Three years had passed. His practice keep growing until he meet a chance to go national when got offer from top class construction company in the country. At the same time, a friend need him to take a big case, communist case of national security law. Song certainly didn’t accept the case at first, but changed his mind when know that Jin-woo, son of an old friend, involved in that case and accused as commies. Song surely believe that Jin-woo is wrongly arrested and big-hearted Song eventually take the case to stand against unjust system.

Things didn’t go well in court. Jin-woo and other defendants admit that they committed subversive avtivity, reading subversive literature and spreading the communist view through book club. Song later know that these statements are the result of torture. But he can’t support too much since there’s no any evidence, and even worse because national security cases focus on confessions, which Jin-woo had admitted his guilt.

Effort had been done, but didn’t bring any good to the case since all the system, the case itself, and even the trial had been planned to put Song and the defendant at the weak side. The prosecutor and judge also is rubbish. But finally a witness, the key of this case, came and made a statement. Is it a good ending? could be debated, watch it yourself.


The attorney is the 12th film I have watched so far that starring Song Kang-ho. And he never fail giving his best performance. Song Kang-ho plays 2 different character well. In first part of film he acts as an ambitious and greedy lawyer, earning money for the sake of his family, don’t care about politics. He was no hero. Latter half, he becomes idealist who against the corrupt system and successfully turns the flow of film into a courtroom drama. He really play important role in this movie, though the movie as a  whole is good because it brings moral and social values explicitly.

Seeing from perspective of politics, I find this movie is quite interesting because it is based on real culture of South Korea which is no different from Indonesia or other developing country in those period. Corrupt government, fake case, violence by police, parties conflict, student demonstration, and riots everywhere. This movie reveals injustice in that era, where we can’t uphold democracy. Any suspicious activity would be treated as threat to country. I really can’t imagine to live in that era.

Back to movie, I think the messages of this movie is delivered well to the audience, but also not flawless. The court drama is presented too late so that neither reason nor background of the ‘fake case’ is clear, while there are too many unimportant daily life scene in first part. To sum up, The Attorney deserves 7.8 user rating from IMDb, and good movie to watch from a first-time feature director. And really good choice for main actor, who definitely the most dependable actor in Korean cinema.


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