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Set during the 1948 Jeju Massacre in Korea, Jiseul tells the story of some 120 villagers who hid in a cave for 60 days from soldiers who were under shoot-to-kill orders. They suffer from severe cold and hunger but retain their sanity by making jokes and holding on to the hope that their wait is almost over. Eventually their endurance wanes, and fear begins to test the group's mettle.
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Visually, the film is breathtaking -- replete with meticulous, broodingly lit compositions of weatherbeaten landscapes that form an elemental backdrop to human portraits of iconic impact.
Its often compositional beauty and sensitivity fail to elevate it into a major work, and perhaps its general approach to character might leave it a minor one even in terms of audience reception.
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