Review: The Third Murder — A complex film that questions if the truth matters to judiciary

third murder movie still

The Third Murder (2017) 三度目の殺人

Movie review

Directed and written by Hirokazu Kore-eda (After the Storm, Like Father, Like Son), The Third Murder follows a public defence attorney named Tomoaki Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama) who takes on the case of Misumi (Kōji Yakusho), a suspect who’s confessed that he murdered his former employee. Shigemori aims to help Misumi avoid the imminent death sentence but that proves to be difficult as the defendant keeps changing the story of why and how he did it, forcing Shigemori to go on an investigation where he struggles to find the true motive behind the crime. As the trial begins, Shigemori and his team have to defend Misumi in court before even confirming the story they’re going for.

This is a highly thought-provoking, complex, legal drama thriller with a purpose to depict the job of a defence attorney while criticising the judicial system in Japan. While Masayuki Suo’s 2006 film I Just Didn’t Do It may have explored the legal and public challenges of a person falsely accused, and films like Singapore’s 2016 film Apprentice questions the capital punishment of the country, The Third Murder focuses more on a lawyer’s point of view, difficulties and moral conflicts defending a confessed murderer as a defence attorney’s beliefs, decisions, strategy and advice (or the lack of) greatly contribute to the defendant’s ultimate fate.

Koji Yakusho third murder

The award-winning performance by Kōji Yakusho (13 Assassins, Babel) as the defendant Misumi provides a mix of impression that could keep the audience wondering when he’s actually telling the truth or if he committed the crime at all. His polite and seemingly harmless behaviour and past criminal record make him a very compelling character from beginning to the end and he made me want to believe that he’s either innocent or had good reasons. Masaharu Fukuyama (Manhunt, Like Father, Like Son) gives a good performance too as Shigemori who starts off as an emotionless, by-the-book lawyer who has his responsibility and moral grounds challenged by the case. While his relationship issue with his estranged daughter feels unengaging, it nicely sets up to cast doubts on all the suspicious characters, like the victim’s wife (Yuki Saito) and daughter (Suzu Hirose), who may be “play-acting”.

Perhaps my only other criticism about the film is that it’s very slow paced and feels a little draggy in the middle. It is definitely more of a philosophical film than an entertaining one. Those expecting a Primal Fear-like twist in the end might be left disappointed but the film is never really about shocking the audience or offering a fun, popcorn time. Instead, the ending of The Third Murder questions if Japan’s current justice system is just when it sometimes decides the truth rather than actually finding and judging based on the real whole truth. But then again it is also impossible to find the absolute truth. The film ends unconventionally by leaving the truth a mystery as though it wants the audience to have a taste of judging without the truth.

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What I would’ve named the film: “I Just Don’t Know If He Did It!”

Malaysian censorship: Not the type of film that requires major censoring.

Verdict: A film that made me question along with it — What is “truth”? Shouldn’t it matter before you hang someone?

Rating: 4 / 5

third murder movie poster malaysia gscCountry / Language: Japan / Japanese

Genre: Mystery, drama, thriller
Running Time: 125 minutes
Director-writer: Kore-eda Hirokazu
Cast: Masaharu Fukuyama, Kôji Yakusho, Isao Hashizume

Malaysia Release Date: 11 January 2018 (GSC International Screens only)
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Production: Fuji Television Network, Amuse, GAGA Corporation

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