VOD film review: The Third Murder
James R | On 20, Jul 2018
Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Cast: Koji Yakusho, Fukuyama Masaharu
Watch The Third Murder online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
When you see the name “Hirokazu Koreeda”, you know what to expect. A family drama. A delicate observation of human interactions and the details of day-to-day existence. Someone eating food, most likely as a communal activity. And heart. Oodles and oodles of heart. The Third Murder is not that film. There’s not even a cherry blossom tree.
Instead, we open with a man being burned in a field at night. The culprit? Misumi (Koji Yakusho), who confesses without hesitation. When interviewed by his defence attorney, Shigemori (Fukuyama Masaharu), it doesn’t seem like a mystery why – after all, he was an employee of the victim at a food factory, and took his wallet along with his life. But what seems a simple cut-and-shut case slowly becomes more complicated, as the succinctly woven truth unravels into loose threads, frayed certainty and all manner of discombobulation. Every time Shigemori goes back for another Q&A, he gets a different account of what happened, with no clear motive: at one point, it seems like a well-intentioned revenge; at another, it’s a greed-driven money grab; and at yet another, we wonder if he even did the crime in the first place. The fact that we see him doing it on screen before anything else is almost irrelevant.
Misumi, we learn, has already been to prison before, for two other murders – and, if found guilty here, he’ll likely face the death penalty, adding a fourth killing to the third of the title. Shigemori’s father, a retired judge, presided over Misumi’s previous trial – “There’s a huge gap between those who kill and those who don’t kill”, he observes, as father and son discuss the case. (“How long do kids have to take the blame for their parents’ crimes?” asks one of the younger generation, who also have their part to play.)
The result is an enjoyably slippery court drama, with Koreeda swapping his usual tangible warmth for something chilly and more philosophical. While it seems like a departure, though, his knack for conveying the tiny rhythms of everyday existence is well suited for the slow-moving procedure of the justice machine’s many cogs. He shoots the absorbing one-to-one exchanges between lawyer and client in patient close-ups, each face with the other superimposed in a faint reflection – as elusive as Masaharu’s engagingly enigmatic performance.
While all this seems like a slight experiment in genre for a distinctive director, there’s a more serious point underlying the tale, as facts begin to become less important than the strategy that goes into securing the best possible sentence, or the legal system going through its motions. “The judge has to complete his trials to maintain his reputation,” we’re told, as the case continues to move ahead, regardless. Is the truth merely hard to pin down, Koreeda’s critical drama gently asks? Or does it simply not matter?
The Third Murder is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of a £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription.