The Third Murder [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Film Movement
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (27th November 2018).
The Film

Best Film: The Third Murder (won), Best Supporting Actor: Koji Yakusho (won), Best Supporting Actress: Suzu Hirose (won), Best Director: Best Director
Hirokazu Koreeda
(won), Best Screenplay: Hirokazu Koreeda (won), Best Editing: Hirokazu Koreeda (won), Best Cinematography: Mikiya Takimoto (nominated), Best Musical Score: Ludovico Einaudi (nominated), Best Sound: Kazuhiko Tomita (nominated), and Best Lighting: Norikiyo Fujii (nominated) - Awards of the Japanese Academy, 2018

Golden Lion (Best Film): Hirokazu Koreeda (nominated) - Venice Film Festival, 2017

Attorney Shigemori (Like Father, Like Son's Masaharu Fukuyama) is brought on by his partners to defend a case, in which factory worker Misumi (Cure's K˘ji Yakusho) has already confessed to killing, robbing, and burning the body of his boss, especially because he had only recently been released from prison after murdering two men thirty years ago (a case in which Shigemori's father was the judge). At best, Shigemori hopes that he can change the charge from murder and robbery to robbery and murder, the motive mattering when it comes to death penalty cases, with a supposed grudge being seen as less heinous than proft. Misumi tells Shigemori and his associates that he confessed because he was told that he could avoid the death penalty. Just as Shigemori thinks he can present the case as such, a magazine article is published in which Misumi told the reporter that he was paid to commit the crime by the man's wife Mizue (Godzilla vs Biollante's Yuki Sait˘), and some investigation turns up a deposit into his bank account and a text message from Mizue's phone to Misumi that she swears was made by her husband when he could not find his own, and the prosecutor points out the ambiguity of the actual message contents. Shigemori learns that Misumi has a crippled daughter with whom he is estranged, and a story that Misumi tells him about his family life mirrors a photograph on the man's phone that he discovers of Misumi with his boss' teenage daughter Sakie (Our Little Sister's Suzu Hirose) who has a lame leg. After interviewing Sakie, Shigemori suspects that Misumi is trying to cover up her involvement, and Misumi's changing stories to obfuscate that angle are detrimental to his defense. Finding parallels between Misumi's relationship with Sakie and his own troubled one with his fourteen-year-old daughter Yuka (After the Storm's Aju Makita), Shigemori's search for the truth supersedes his goal of winning the case; but does the truth matter once the wheels of justice start turning on an unswerving course?

Attorney Shigemori (Like Father, Like Son's Masaharu Fukuyama) is brought on by his partners to defend a case, in which factory worker Misumi (Cure's K˘ji Yakusho) has already confessed to killing, robbing, and burning the body of his boss, especially because he had only recently been released from prison after murdering two men thirty years ago (a case in which Shigemori's father was the judge). At best, Shigemori hopes that he can change the charge from murder and robbery to robbery and murder, the sequence of events mattering when it comes to death penalty cases. Misumi tells Shigemori and his associates that he confessed because he was told that he could avoid the death penalty. Just as Shigemori thinks he can present the case as such, a magazine article is published in which Misumi told the reporter that he was paid to commit the crime by the man's wife Mizue (Godzilla vs Biollante's Yuki Sait˘), and some investigation turns up a deposit into his bank account and a text message from Mizue's phone to Misumi that she swears was made by her husband when he could not find his own, and the prosecutor points out the ambiguity of the actual message contents. Shigemori learns that Misumi has a crippled daughter with whom he is estranged, and a story that Misumi tells him about his family life mirrors a photograph on the man's phone that he discovers of Misumi with his boss' teenage daughter Sakie (Our Little Sister's Suzu Hirose) who has a lame leg. After interviewing Sakie, Shigemori suspects that Misumi is trying to cover up her involvement, and Misumi's changing stories to obfuscate that angle are detrimental to his defense. Finding parallels between Misumi's relationship with Sakie and his own troubled one with his fourteen-year-old daughter Yuka (After the Storm's Aju Makita), Shigemori's search for the truth supersedes his goal of winning the case; but does the truth matter once the wheels of justice start turning on an unswerving course? Moving from family drama to the thriller genre well into the third decade of his career, Hirokazu Koreeda (After the Storm) swept the Japanese Academy Awards with The Third Murder. It is a beguiling intimate film, with trailers and dialogue within the film about Misumi having "no soul" or being like an "empty vessel" suggesting the audiences that they might expect something along the lines of various "Satan enchained" jail and asylum thrillers like K˘ji's earlier Kiyoshi Kurosawa effort Cure. What we have instead is the story of Shigemori's need to understand the truth and trying to impose what he wants to believe of Misumi and his motives over what might actually be the truth, and all of that superseding his need to find "whatever plays best in court." The belief that Misumi espouses that some people should never have been born because they are put in situations they never asked for and have no control over their fates makes his own need to be believe and to tell whatever story Shigemori will believe even at the expense of the truth more dramatically satisfying. The film pointing out that "no one tells the truth here" seems as na´ve as the character who utters it, but director Koreeda himself in the making-of noted that he had not realized just how emotional his own understanding of the justice system was until he started researching it for the film; perhaps, as such, The Third Murder is not so extreme a departure from his earlier work.
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Video

Shot on Arri Alexa cameras, The Third Murder has a crisp and clean look; however, colors are deliberately muted and the low-key lighting style means that nothing really pops. The UK Blu-ray release from Arrow Academy seems to bear this out when screen captures are compared to Film Movement's domestic 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen transfer from the same master provided by French licensors Wild Bunch (which is why the closing credits are in English rather than Japanese.
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Audio

Audio options include a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 option. Both are suitable, but the lossless option conveys a bit more presence in the restrained sound design when it comes to music and atmospheric effects. Optional English subtitles are provided.
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Extras

While the UK disc had an introduction by critic Tony Rayns, Film Movement's Blu-ray only features the extras supplied by the licensor in a Making-of (30:02) in which Koreeda discusses his turning to the thriller genre, the extensive research including a mock trial session with real lawyers in which the case did not end the way in which he had anticipated, extensive rehearsals, and a look at the design of environments (it is very much like the behind the scenes segment offered on discs of his earlier film After the Storm). Also included is a Messages from the Cast (1:36) segment made up of talking heads. Exclusive to the disc is another of Film Movement's short films, the unrelated "A Gentle Night" (15:09) by Qiu Yang . The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (1:37) and bonus trailers.
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Overall

Hirokazu Koreeda's turn froms from family dramas to the thriller with The Third Murder is perhaps not so extreme a departure as it at first appears.

 


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