The Classified File (2015)

Outside of the bizarre fact that the story being told here happens to be based on a real kidnapping case where the police did in fact use a fortune teller to help them solve the case, there’s absolutely nothing noteworthy about this movie.

Perhaps it’s best if I summarize the plot first and only then get into the problems I had with this movie, as much of my problems can be better discussed once you know the proper context. The basic premise is that during the 70s, a young girl from a rich family gets kidnapped but for several days there is no ransom demand made. Plagued by fear and desperation as the days go by and no word from the kidnappers, the distressed mother visits various psychics and fortune tellers for consultation, only to be told time and time again that her daughter is dead and she should give up hope. That is, until they go to one particular fortune teller, Kim Joong-san, who proclaims that the girl is still alive, and that only a specific police officer can help get her back safely. Enter our hero, Gong Gil-yong, the cliché slightly rough around the edges, low ranking police officer with a sort of heart of gold protagonist, who gets assigned to kidnapping case after some initial reluctance. It’s from here that the movie started to lose me and you’ll understand in a second why that is. For you see, the rest of the story basically hinges entirely on the fortune teller, Kim Joong-san, to keep getting visions and delivering several incredibly accurate predictions that slowly guide the police to find the missing child. And the best part is that you’re suppose to take all this psychic stuff completely at face value. I can’t stress enough just how utterly boring this movie ends up being due to this.

I don’t object the use of psychic powers as a plot device, per se. I actually see a lot of potential in using that to make the story more interesting if this had been an entirely original manuscript and you could have painted the fortune teller as much more shady character and played with the thought that maybe he was somehow involved in the kidnapping. But given that this is based on real events, it’s a bit hard to swallow. My main issue is that the story simply does not work as an engaging crime thriller when nearly every single important plot point relies on the fortune teller getting another vision that might move the story forward, and it’s never really portrayed like the fortune teller’s power might not be authentic. You cannot have much suspense, let alone tension under such conditions, especially if it makes the cops look like they’re not really doing anything but twiddle their thumbs while waiting for a new vision to arrive and then guide them to the next clue.

On one hand it’s understandable if the film makers felt the need to play everything as straight as possible due to adapting actual real events, but if that is what happened they kinda went overboard with it as the movie goes from being a slow paced thriller to being a glorified re-enactment story moving on a snail’s pace. In real life it took around 33 days for the police to solve the case, so while it makes sense that for a majority of the time the detectives fail to make any real progress with the kidnapping, there’s still no excuse for the movie failing to compress the case into a story where half the time it feels like nothing is happening. There’s also a distinct lack of urgency and desperation throughout the story. Sure, the parents cry and all that fuzz, but it never truly feels like anybody involved has any real stakes involved and it’s that general feeling of disinterest that turns the entire movie into such a bore to watch. It’s in a way remarkable how they’ve managed to make a movie where you end up finding yourself in a position where you are so completely detached to everything that is happening on the screen in front of you.

The title is weirdly appropriate. This is very much a movie that ought to be filed as  classified so that it’d would be kept out of view and nobody could ever lay their eyes on it by accident and decide to give it a go.

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