2009: LOST MEMORIES
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Alternate history does not mean politically correct history, where the only bad guys were Evil White Men. No, alternate history (a sub-genre of science fiction) is about different versions of history. The South winning the Civil War (a very near thing, by the way) is one of the most common. Personally I prefer the obscure little twists that could lead to a very different 21st century (see the Draka novels by S.M. Stirling). But an alternate outcome to the civil war is a very American item to wonder about. Obviously people in other cultures would wonder what the world would be like if some pivotal event in their history came out different.
2009: LOST MEMORIES is a Korean film directed by Si-myung Lee (VAMPIRE COP RICKY) and written by Si-myung Lee and Sang-hak Lee. The story begins with a stylishly shot semi-documentary about the attempted assassination of a prominent Japanese politician named Ito Hirubumi in Korea in 1909. "Attempted" being the key word because in actual history the attempt was successful. But in this alternate universe a soldier steps from the crowd and plugs the assassin as he rushes Hirubumi at a train station.
Because Hirubumi lives history follows a different path. He becomes the first governor of the Japanese province of Chosun (the former Korea). Japan goes on to conquer Manchuria earlier than it did in our timeline and somehow never turns to fascism (perhaps because its new territories provide all the resources it was after in WWII). In this history the Japanese Empire and the U.S. end up on the same side and Berlin gets nuked instead of Hiroshima.
The story jumps to the city of Seoul, capital of Japanese Chosun province, in 2009. A fancy art exhibition being put on by the Inoue family is interrupted by hang gliding terrorists and the JBI (Japanese Bureau of Investigation) SWAT team shows up. The terrorists are the CLA (Chosun Liberation Army), a group that wants to free Korea from Japanese control.
A massive firefight ensues, lead by JBI agent Masayuki Sakamoto (Dong-Kun Jang: THE WARRIOR'S WAY). Sakamoto himself is of Korean descent but, if anything that makes him even more brutal towards the CLA. It's not easy being a member of a conquered people rising in the ranks of the conquerors. This is even more true for a cop whose cop father turned traitor and joined the CLA himself.
In the aftermath Sakamoto realizes that the terrorist attack may have been just a diversion to cover the theft of a strange artifact in the Inoue collection. He receives permission to investigate further and Sakamoto and his partner Saiko (Tôru Nakamura: K-20: THE FIEND WITH 20 FACES) start hanging out in the ghetto, also known as the Korean District. A number of interesting leads take them back to the Inoue family, but this powerful and politically connected family makes a few calls and the two cops are severely reprimanded.
Sakamoto won't let it go (of course, or we wouldn't have a story). In fact he starts having dreams about a strange girl and this same weird artifact. Eventually he meets with the CLA itself and hears an unbelievable story about time travel and a world where Japan got nuked, not Germany, and Korea is independent (sort of).
Is such a thing possible?
Will I answer that question with a !!!SCIENCE MOMENT!!! ?
No, I won't, because the time travel element here is based on magic and fantasy is exempt. But I will give you an alternate SCIENCE MOMENT about changing the past. If you could somehow go back in time, there are those who believe that you'd be unable to change anything. They believe some mysterious force would make it work out such that whatever you did was already meant to be and just ends up creating the future you wanted to change (TWELVE MONKEYS, for example).
I disagree. If I travel back in time to Korea in 1909, just by standing there I'm changing history. As I breathe my lungs are creating carbon dioxide molecules that weren't created before. From the Universe's point of view that's just as significant an alteration as a successful assassination changed into an unsuccessful one, or the South winning the civil war or any other change in human history. In other words, if time travel is possible, then by definition altering history is possible.
This is an excellent thriller in a fascinating alternate universe, or at least it would have been if it was maybe ninety minutes long. At two hours plus it gets boring in places with some unnecessary montages and over the top schmaltzy moments. A good editor could whittle it down into a four shriek girl film, but as it is the best I can give it is a three.
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