What would have happened to the world if the former Japanese Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi wasn't assassinated in 1909 or more precisely what would have happened to Korea? That is what 2009: Lost Memories asks. I'll delve more into that in a second. I had never heard of 2009 or seen a Korean film before I think 2005 when I believe I rented the film from Hollywood Video or it could have been Blockbuster. Anyway I don't remember seeing a Korean made film before, but the premise of the film made me want to see it and took a chance on the film. I was pleasantly surprised by the film with it being enjoyable, and it got me interested in learning more about Korean history. 2009: Lost Memories is adapted from the novel Looking for an Epitaph by Bok Geo-il.
I won't go into great detail, but I'll give you the outline of the plot and history. As I said the former Japanese Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi was assassinated in 1909 by An Jung-geun a Korean nationalist who wanted independence, but in the film someone stops him by shooting him. We never see who stops the An Jung-geun, but this one event changes history for Asia and the world in the following events.
1909: An Jung-geun's assassination attempt against Itō Hirobumi is thwarted by Inoue
1910: Japan annexes Korea as Choson Province
1919: The March 1st Movement protests are suppressed
1921: Inoue, Itō's savior, becomes Choson's second governor
1932: The Assassination of Yoshinori Shirakawa by Yoon Bong-Gil thwarted
1937: The United States and Japan enter World War II as allies
1943: Japan takes control of Manchuria
1945: Atomic bombs are dropped on Berlin, ending World War II.
1960: Japan becomes permanent member of UN Security Council
1965: Japan launches its first satellite, Sakura 1 (presumably as part of the Space Race)
1988 Summer Olympics held in Nagoya (instead of Nagoya losing to Seoul)
2002: World Cup tournament held in Japan (instead of both Korea and Japan)
You'll notice some key changes to history like the United States and Japan were allies in World War II and atomic bombs were dropped on Germany instead of Japan. In the film Japan still controls Korea. Though I don't remember the film mentioning it I believe Japan controls much of Asia. This is a great concept an alternate reality film. Many films mention and talk about it, but few actually explore alternate realities in depth. The great made for TV film Fatherland does it. In Fatherland based off the novel Robert Harris in which Germany won World War II and now controls all most all of Eastern Europe to all of Russia, and the rest of Europe is subservient to Germany. It's a great made for TV film with a good plot and a great performance by Rutger Hauer in one of his best acting roles. I wish Hollywood would delve into this type of film more like what if the Confederacy had won the Civil War. What would the United States and the world look like today or if JFK hadn't been assassinated. Those are some interesting ideas that I wish Hollywood studios, writers and directors would take a chance on.
All right back to 2009: Lost Memories. After the opening sequence the film takes place in 2009 with two JBI (Japanese Bureau of Investigation) agents Masayuki Sakamoto (Jang Dong-gun) and Shojiro Saigo (Toru Nakamura) who are in the city of Seoul to stop a hostage crisis at a museum. The action sequence is really well down though except it is a little long, but I'll get into that later. After the two agents and their team stops the situation by taking out the hostage takers the two agents realize they were part of the terrorist group Hureisenjin. Masayuki begins to question the situation after he finds an artifact and looks into the group. The JBI and the government don't like what Masayuki is doing and he is thrown of the case and someone tries to kill him. The plot goes on to involve time travel, but I honestly didn't like that part much. It seemed to take away from the film. What I did like was how the film shows Japans attitude towards Koreans who they rule over. You can tell the film maker and Korea still has residual issues toward Japan much like China does. I also like the friendship between the two lead characters even when they are prepared to kill each other. The actors Jang Dong-gun and Toru Nakamura do an outstanding job.
The action is good including the opening scene in the museum and a sewer scene. The problem with the action scenes are that they go on forever. I am action fan, but if they're going action film with a plot like this the director Lee Si-myung and writers should have delved more into the life of Korea ruled by Japan the plot instead they added time travel themes that I think weren't necessary for a film like this and again took away from the film along with the good but prolonged action sequences. The music was also great, but couldn't keep 2009: Lost Memories from being an above average action film. It could have been so much more if done right.
2009: Lost Memories had a great concept for a plot and could have truly been a truly great and remarkable action film, but instead the director and writers tried too much Sci-fi and adding too much action elements trying to emulate Hong Kong's best action films. Still 2009 is a good action flick with a great opening plot, excellent lead characters and actors, good action and music. I do recommend this film along with seeing and reading the Fatherland, and hopefully Hollywood will truly delve more into this territory.