Burning (2018): Film Review
Personally, I am a huge fan of "slow-burn thrillers." To specify, this is the genre of the films that take large amounts of time to set the stage up for a dramatic finale that leaves the viewer at a loss for words. Everything seems to click in the end, and it ushers a period of complete shock for a few days, as the viewer tries to understand what they witnessed. These films, when done properly, can be absolutely amazing, and profoundly deep. With his newest film, acclaimed South-Korean director Chang-dong Lee has achieved quite a feat in the world of cinema. He has provided a film, a slow burner film, that is practically perfect. Although each scene feels odd when being watched, after examining everything as whole, every little detail begins to make sense. Burning is a masterpiece, and could very well change this genre as a whole, if not film itself. Lee Jong-su is awkward and a little anti-social, with a quaint presence in the society he lives in. When he reunites with a childhood friend - Shin Hae-Mi - he begins to become happier, and more invested in his every day life. He quickly falls in love with her, and over time, she begins to feel the same way about him. Before leaving for a trip to Africa, Shin asks Lee to cat-sit for her. He obliges, and waits for her to return into his life. But, when she does, she is not alone. We meet Ben, a young rich man who has taken over Shin's life, and soon later, Lee's. As things begin to go on, we see all of the madness through the perspective of Lee, who begins to suspect that something is not right. And then, Ben tells Lee about his hobby, a very peculiar hobby.... From there, Burning takes hold, gripping the viewer from the very start, and wheeling them through the twists and turns of the story like a roller coaster. The film is extremely long, clocking in at 148 minutes. But, once the film is finished, and is given ample time to sit in the back of your mind, never being able to truly fade away, it becomes extremely evident that each scene in the film is placed quite perfectly, serving as an intense buildup to a final act that will have you shocked at its utter craziness. But, throughout the film, there is this silent tension, that begins to rise as Lee, fostered by a fantastic Yoo Ah-In, begins to question what actually is going on, and who this Ben character really is. Chang-Dong captures the directorial aspects so vividly that it feels like we are literally thrown into Lee's perspective, feeling all the emotions swimming inside his head; a feat that only some directors can pull off so effortlessly. The film captures your interest from minute one, and refuses to let it go until the very end, where the credits swarm the scene. And the film continues to grasp your mind after that for a long time, as you question what you actually just witnessed, and what it all means. And for its ability to do that, Burning is a marvel. It is simply a near-perfect slow-burning thriller that takes every moment into careful concern, ultimately paying off with a shaking finale. Burning is a masterpiece, and a film to remember from 2018, if not the whole decade so far.