Tense Japanese crime dramaThe Third Murder digs deep into types and tests for truth. Sometimes the truth is what we know it to be and sometimes it’s what we agree it to be. In this context prominent successful lawyer Shigemori (Masaharu Fukuyama) meets Misumi (Kôji Yakusho), a man who has already served prison time for murder and who is now charged with killing his boss. Misumi has already confessed to the crime.
“…a tense Japanese crime drama that digs deep into types of tests for truth.“
The case against Misumi seems airtight. Shigemori and the defense team believe the only tactic is to find mitigating factors to get the sentence reduced from death to life in prison. Misumi does not seem to care either way. Shigemori encounters details in his investigation that cause growing doubt that Misumi is guilty at all. The urge to understand why Misumi confessed and who might benefit from it becomes Shigemori’s truth. The inequities of legal systems based on the outcome of adversarial contest instead of a search for the truth are highlighted. Rules of order supersede any desire to know what actually happened.
Reflecting Japanese cultural aversion to public emotion, The Third Murder is likely the most polite drama about murder that you’ll see. Misumi slightly raises his voice and looks pained. The victim’s wife tears up a letter of apology from Misumi in the presence of Shigemori. These acts are considered shocking high drama. Subtle emotion combined with a slow pace and subtitles present a challenge for most American viewers. We are accustomed to being spoon fed the plot (with dramatic emotions loudly proclaimed and underscored by music cues) and you may have to work a little bit to get immersed in this story. That’s an effort worth making. Calm the hell down. Put away your phone. Get some tea. Don’t be in a hurry. Give this movie a minute to find you.
“The urge to understand why Misumi confessed and who might benefit from it becomes Shigemori’s truth. “
Shigemori sees sympathetic parallels in his family to the plight of Misumi. He begins to slowly understand the metaphor that Misumi is trying to make of his existence. Gradually the truth begins to shine its golden light for Shigemori and change his perspective on events, at least for this case.
The movie craftsmanship is as reticent as the characters to reveal itself, but it does eventually sparkle if you take the time to notice and trust the filmmaker. Director Hirokazu Koreeda focuses on the court procedural details, artfully surrounded by beautiful cinematography, costumes, and blocking that are quietly breathtaking.
The Third Murder (2017) Written and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda. Starring Masaharu Fukuyama, Kôji Yakusho.
8 out of 10